In virtually all sports, participants "warm-up" prior to formal competition. Women athletes from a highly ranked varsity college volleyball team and, in a second study, a highly ranked varsity college tennis team gave saliva samples before warm-up, at mid-warm-up (volleyball) or after warm-up (tennis), and immediately after intercollegiate competition. For volleyball and tennis, warm-up was associated with a substantial elevation in saliva levels of testosterone which was carried over through the period of actual competition. Cortisol levels were relatively unchanged during warm-up, but typically rose during competition. Thus, as women prepare for athletic competition by warming up, testosterone levels rise in apparent anticipation of the coming contest and then remain high through the period of play. In volleyball and tennis, after-practice testosterone level was significantly higher than before-practice level, and practice session increases in testosterone (but not cortisol) were positively correlated with increases in testosterone during intercollegiate competition. When practice and competitive play share as yet undetermined key elements, individual differences in this endocrine response to "competition" appear stable across practice and intercollegiate competition.
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