Stress-related hormonal and psychological changes to official youth Taekwondo competitions

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Feb;21(1):111-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01046.x.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of an official Taekwondo competition on the heart rate (HR), salivary α-amylase (sA-A), salivary free cortisol (sC), and Profile of Mood States (POMS) in 10 young male (14±0 years) and six female (13±1 years) athletes. POMS and hormones were measured 15 min before and directly after the competition. During the recovery phase (30 and 90 min), sA-A and sC were also measured. HR measured during the competition was expressed as a percentage of individual's maximal heart rate (%HR(max) ) to evaluate the intensity of exercise. During the competition, athletes spent 65% of the time working at HR>90% of individuals HR(max). A significant increase (P<0.0001) in sA-A (115%) was observed at the end of the match. At 30 min of recovery, sA-A returned to the pre-competition level. The peak sC values were observed at 30 min of recovery (P<0.001), returning to the pre-competition level at 90 min of recovery. A gender difference (P=0.01) emerged only for sC, although a similar trend was observed for female and male athletes. Significantly higher post-match scores emerged for Anger-hostility (pre: 6.1±1.1, post: 11.2±1.9; P=0.03) and Depression-dejection (pre: 4.5±0.5, post: 10.2±1.9; P=0.006), whereas the reverse picture was observed for Vigour-activity (pre: 23.2±1.2, post: 16.3±1.7; P=0.0006). Taekwondo competition results in temporary changes in the stress-related parameters measured in this study. The present findings suggest that this experimental paradigm can represent a useful model for further research on the effects of various stressors (i.e., training and competition) in Taekwondo athletes of different levels (i.e., novice, international).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Amylases / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Martial Arts / physiology*
  • Martial Arts / psychology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Amylases
  • Hydrocortisone