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Mood Profile of an America's Cup Team: Relationship with Muscle Damage and Injuries


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 7 - p 1403-1408
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181cd5cb9

Purpose: To describe the mood profile of an America's Cup sailing team during competition and to evaluate the influence of previous injuries occurrence and intensity of physical work on the boat upon mood state. Relationships between mood domains and metabolic markers of muscle damage were also investigated.

Methods: A descriptive study was conducted on an America's Cup yachting race crew comprising 21 male sailors (mean ± SD; age = 27.6 ± 8.5 yr, weight = 89.3 ± 24.9 kg, BMI = 26.5 ± 6.9 kg·m−2). All measurements were collected during the Louis Vuitton Cup 2007 in Valencia, Spain. The POMS test and creatine kinase (CK) serum activity were measured and correlated. Sailors were grouped according to their presence or absence of previous musculoskeletal injuries (MI) and the intensity of physical work related to boat position: high intensity (HI) and low intensity (LI).

Results: According to normative data, pre- and postracing POMS scores were constantly high with prominent anger (24.2 ± 9 before and 24.9 ± 10.1 after the race) and depression (22.7 ± 8.9 before and 20.6 ± 7.3 after the race). The HI group displayed unchanged anger scores but showed significant differences compared with the LI group (z = −2.07, P = 0.038, μ 2 = 0.22) at the end of the competition. The occurrence of a previous injury did not correlate with any interference with mood. Only the fatigue domain before racing had a significant negative correlation with CK levels (r = −0.509, P < 0.05).

Conclusions: The emotional profile of this America's Cup yachting crew showed stable mood scores with high values in anger and depression compared with normative data. Mood was dependent on physical work intensity related to boat position but not on injury occurrence. Enzyme markers of muscle damage had no bearing on most POMS domains, except for fatigue before racing.

1Orthopaedics and Trauma Unit, Department of Surgery, University of Valencia, Valencia, SPAIN; 2Department of Basic and Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, Jaume I University of Castellón, Castellón, SPAIN; 3CIBERObn, Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition, SPAIN; and 4Department of Personality, Assessment and Psychological Treatment, University of Valencia, Valencia, SPAIN

Address for correspondence: Michal Hadala, M.Sc., Department of Surgery, University of Valencia, Avda Blasco Ibanez 17, Valencia 46021, Spain; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2009.

Accepted for publication November 2009.

Psychological states such as mood, emotion, and affect have received a great deal of attention in sport literature (15,20,24,32); however, in sailing sports, there is still little research literature, much less concerning a team as elite as an America's Cup crew. To examine the mood associated with sports, researchers have used a variety of self-report inventories, with the most common being the POMS (23). The scale contains six factors (tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, and confusion). The use of the POMS in sport was pioneered by Nagle et al. (26), who demonstrated that mood profiles of athletes, particularly at elite levels, were characterized by an "iceberg" profile, wherein the score for vigor was above average, whereas scores for tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion were below average.

Mood profile and its relationship to performance have been demonstrated to be variable across different sports disciplines (31). Terry (31) identified sports in which high anger (e.g., combat sports) and tension (e.g., cross-country running) scores have been proven to be positively related to successful performance.

In recent years, the assessment of potential linkages between mood state and various indicators of psychophysiological performance (such as muscle fatigue and muscle damage) has gained relevance within sports medicine research. To our knowledge, there is a lack of such investigations in the context of performance in sailing.

The America's Cup challenge involves intense physical stress due to exhausting training and demands that are particular to racing sailboats (2-9,13,14,27). The 2007 America's Cup yachting race included 13 consecutive competitions and a final event, the Louis Vuitton Cup. Each competition consisted of five to seven consecutive days of races at the same venue, with one to two races per day. Beginning in October 2004, all teams (challengers and defenders) participated in the matches, racing against all the other teams until the last round, in June 2007. Each day, teams participated in one or two races, each of which lasted 1-2 h. Each team spent approximately three additional hours sailing before the races began, during which the sailors would review their equipment and sails and adapt to the weather conditions. Crews comprised of 17 sailors remained on board for a total of 5-7 h. A typical America's Cup yachting crew is exposed to a high risk of injury; overall incidence is 10 injuries per 1000 competition hours (13). Approximately 75% of lesions are considered "overuse" injuries. Injuries of crew members occupying positions requiring high-intensity activity account for more than two-thirds of all injuries.

The presence or absence of injuries in participants is relevant to studies of mood assessment in sports. There is a growing body of evidence on the psychological impact of injuries on mood. Because negative emotions commonly emerge after an injury (18), risk of injury, which is somewhat related to high physical demands within certain sports, seems to be a significant factor in understanding mood state. Johnston and Carroll (19) found that mood measured with POMS increased in the recovery period after an injury. Another interesting study showed that the mood profile of a group of sportsmen approximated an iceberg profile during the recovery process after an injury (1).

Intense exercise has significant consequences for muscles; it can result in muscle damage through both structural and biochemical mechanisms (11,25,28). Muscle fiber microruptures caused by strong and repetitive contractions cause outflow of creatine kinase (CK) into the bloodstream. In light or moderate exercise, CK in serum maintains normal levels. An increase in CK levels has been found to be an indicator of skeletal muscle fiber damage after a heavy physical exercise (17,30). America's Cup sailing entails exhausting exercise, which often results in muscle damage. Because of the high physical and psychological stress reported by America's Cup team members, a relationship between some mood aspects and muscle damage could be expected. Indeed, a few previous studies exist on the relationship between POMS and the physiological response to exercise. For example, Mashiko et al. (22) found that mental fatigue (measured with POMS) was related to high levels of blood urea (a marker of protein catabolism) in rugby players.

The objectives of this study were (i) to compare the mood profile of an America's Cup team with the iceberg profile of Nagle et al. (26), (ii) to identify any differences between pre- and postcompetition mood profiles, (iii) to evaluate if the presence and type of previous injuries affected mood profiles, and (iv) to assess the relationship between mood profiles and physiological stress from exhaustive exercise on muscle metabolism (measured by CK level in blood).

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A group of 21 members of an America's Cup yachting crew representing six countries and four continents participated in the study. The mean ± SD age of the crew was 27.6 ± 8.5 yr, the mean ± SD weight was 89.3 ± 24.9 kg, and the mean ± SD BMI was 26.5 ± 6.9 kg·m−2. Most of the crew members had competed previously in other sailing competitions such as the Olympic Games, World Cup, and Volvo Ocean Race, as well as previous rounds of the America's Cup.

Crew members were divided into three categories according to their roles on the boat and the physical demands placed on them. A detailed description of physical activities of each crew member while racing was made by our research group in a previous work (13). For the purpose of this study, we comparatively analyzed the two extreme groups: high physical work intensity (High PWI; n = 15) and low physical work intensity (Low PWI; n = 6). After reviewing a detailed explanation of the significance of the measurements, each crew member signed a consent form, thereby agreeing to participate in the study and granting use of the results for scientific purposes. The study received approval from the ethics committee of the University of Valencia.

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Assessment of injury and data collection.

The injury register focused exclusively on competitions corresponding to eight preparatory competitions of the 32nd America's Cup race from October 2004 to June 2007 (totaling 41 racing days), including participation in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup (15 racing days). All injuries were diagnosed and registered by the medical team of the syndicate on a standard injury report form.

Injuries were classified into two categories, traumatic and overuse, depending on the causative mechanism. When an injury was reported for the first time, it was considered acute. However, if an injury requiring previous treatment recurred, it was considered chronic or recurrent. Sailors were grouped according to the presence or absence of previous injuries, resulting in a non-musculoskeletal-injured group (NMI; n = 11) and a musculoskeletal-injured group (MI; n = 10).

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Muscle damage.

Skeletal muscle damage was monitored by measuring CK plasma levels. Venous blood samples were taken from 19 participants during an official racing period. They were obtained in the morning before the race start and again just after the last race corresponding to the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup. The blood was left to coagulate at room temperature and was then centrifuged at 3000g for 10 min to separate the serum, which was stored at −20°C for later analysis. CK was assayed spectrophotometrically with the use of commercially available kits that used optimized conditions (Autolab 18; Boehringer/Mannheim, Germany). The catalytic concentration of CK was expressed as units per liter (U·L−1) at 37°C. The participants were divided into two groups: a high-CK (HCK) group with CK levels >200 U·L−1 (n = 7) and a low-CK (LCK; n = 12) group with levels <200 U·L−1. Two sailors were excluded because of extremely high CK values.

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Mood profile.

The POMS (19) is a 65-item scale, representing six dimensions of affect (tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, and confusion). The internal consistency of the scale ranges from 0.84 to 0.95 in psychiatric outpatients, and it has been shown to demonstrate external validity. The items are scored from 0 (not at all) to 4 (extremely).

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After reviewing a detailed explanation of the significance of the study, each crew member signed a consent form, thereby granting use of the results for scientific purposes. Questionnaires were completed by sailors before and after match races corresponding to the second round of the Louis Vuitton Cup (six races during the course of 1 wk).

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Statistical analysis.

Because of the small sample size, nonparametric statistics were applied to the data. A Wilcoxon signed-rank test was performed to compare the pre- and postrace scores. A Mann-Whitney U test was conducted to explore the differences in POMS between the injury groups (MI vs NMI) and the work intensity groups (HI vs LI). A Spearman correlation analysis was done to study the relationship between the CK blood levels and the POMS scores.

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Table 1 summarizes pre- and postrace POMS scores of all 21 sailors included in the study. Figures 1 and 2 present mood profiles before and after the race. According to normative data (32), the scoring of the participants was high. t Scores were as follows: tension = 66, depression = 72, anger = 74, vigor = 57, fatigue = 64, and confusion = 63. To analyze the difference between pre- and postcompetition scores, a Wilcoxon test was applied. Overall results show that mood scores were constantly high before and after competitions. Furthermore, tension and depression domains were significantly reduced after competitions. The biggest size effect was in the tension category.







To investigate if the group with previous injuries (MI) showed different POMS scores than the other group (NMI), a Mann-Whitney U test was applied. The results did not show significant differences. A similar analysis was made for the groups with chronic and acute injuries; again, no significant differences were identified.

To analyze differences between physical work intensity groups (HI and LI), Mann-Whitney U tests were applied (Table 2). Before competition, the HI group scored significantly higher in depression (z = −1.93, P = 0.05, μ 2 = 0.26) than the LI group. However, there were no significant differences in depression scores after the competition (z = −1.14, NS). Regarding anger, there were differences only after the race, with the HI group scoring higher than the LI group (z = −2.07, P = 0.038, μ 2 = 0.22). Similar results were found for confusion, with differences between groups after the competition (z = −2.16, P = 0.03, μ 2 = 0.24); the HI group scored higher than the LI group.



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Relationship between POMS and muscle fatigue.

To analyze the relationship between POMS and physiological measurements of muscle damage, Mann-Whitney U tests were applied for the LCK group (no muscle damage) and the HCK group (Table 3). Results showed that before the race, the LCK group scored higher in depression (z = −1.99, P = 0.04, μ 2 = 0.13), confusion (z = −2.20, P = 0.02, μ 2 = 0.27), anger (z = −2.23, P = 0.02, μ 2 = 0.24), and fatigue (z = −1.94, P = 0.05, μ 2 = 0.25). After the competition, there were still significant differences in anger (z = −2.43, P = 0.015, μ 2 = 0.28) and confusion (z = −1.96, P = 0.05, μ 2 = 0.19), with the LCK group scoring higher than the HCK group.



To analyze the relationship between POMS scores and CK values, a correlation analysis was applied (Table 4). The results showed a significant negative relationship between fatigue at the beginning of the race and postrace measurements of CK (r = −0.509, P = 0.031). For the remaining values, no significant relationships were found.



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As far as we know, this is the first study in which POMS was used for a sailing team with these characteristics (21). The first objective of this study was to determine the mood profile of an America's Cup sailing team during an official competition. Our results show that the mood profile in these athletes differs from the iceberg shape described by Nagle et al. (26) for other elite sportsmen. In our sample, anger had the highest score, followed by vigor, depression, tension, fatigue, and confusion. These results confirm Terry's (31) hypothesis that mood profile is different across various sports disciplines. In competitions of long endurance such as the America's Cup, it seems that anger is the most relevant mood factor; it colors the emotional state of the participants. Crew members scored highly in this mood domain compared with normative data; this mood remained stable during the race. Furthermore, the postrace anger domain varied between the high- and low-physical activity participants as well as between the HCK and LCK groups. Participants with high physical activity and low CK levels score higher in anger when the race was finished.

Overall, all mood scores were high and constant compared with normative data (32), reflecting a stable mood state. This profile seems to be specific to sailing; participants in similar sports involving high physical and psychological stress (such as marathons) do not show such stable and high mood scores (33). This result might be significant because POMS is a measure that is quite sensitive to mood changes. In this study, mood state was evaluated just before and after the Louis Vuitton Cup, which is the final event of the 14 competitions comprising the America's Cup. This is a very short racing period compared with the 4-yr America's Cup event as a whole. It is possible that the particular characteristics of the America's Cup, which demands high physical and psychological conditioning during a long period, do not permit significant mood changes. Or perhaps, because we studied mood changes in the final part of the America's Cup after almost 4 yr of competition, all of the mood domains could have already been stabilized. Although this short racing period was sufficient for assessing mood characteristics of sailors, it might be too brief to identify relevant mood changes.

Regarding mood changes after competition, the only emotions that significantly varied were tension and depression. Both moods were decreased in intensity at the end of the competition. Results regarding tension are consistent with results from previous studies in high-effort sports (33). It is likely that these results are attributable to precompetition emotions regarding the unpredictability of the race, the weather conditions, the performance of the competing team, or one's own team's behavior. Depression changes are also consistent with previous research (32) and can be mediated by the final scores of the race, wherein the team performed well. Interestingly, depression changes were observed mainly in the group with high physical demands. This group scored significantly higher in depression at the beginning of the competition, and their scores decreased significantly after the race, showing a similar score to the low-physical activity group (who remained stable throughout the competition).

Overall, results indicate that the HI group scored higher in all mood domains (before and after competition) compared with normative data. This could be related to the particular physical and psychological conditions required of participants in the America's Cup. Furthermore, compared with the LI group, the HI group scored higher in depression before the competition and in anger and confusion after the competition. These data might reflect a relationship between high mood scores and the intensity of physical activity. It seems that a more physical activity is related to more intense moods.

The higher scores in anger and the decrease in depression scores could be a consequence of the exhausting exercise that is required of America's Cup sailors. The high levels of muscle damage markers are a result of this strenuous exercise. In these conditions, fatiguing exercise also implies endorphins blood liberation (12,34). These hormonal changes have been proven to have an elevating effect on mood state (16). In fact, this has been found to be the case in other sports such as competitive swimming (10).

It has been assumed that sports-related injuries are related to emotional disturbances. Most seriously injured athletes (in duration of time in which they were unable to participate in sports) experience significantly more tension, depression, and anger and less vigor (29) than those without injuries. Furthermore, people more involved in sports generally exhibit greater emotional response to injury and show a significant effect on confusion levels (19). However, in our study, the preexistence of musculoskeletal injuries did not affect the mood state of the America's Cup crew members. Neither the type of previous injury (acute or chronic) nor the etiological source of the injury had any effect on mood as measured by POMS.

In this group of America's Cup sailors, those with low CK values at the end of the race showed higher scores in depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion before competition and higher anger and confusion after competition. Furthermore, at the end of competition, muscle damage expressed by high CK levels correlated only with the fatigue domain. Regarding confusion, although it showed a highly negative relationship with muscle fatigue (−0.407), this result was not statistically significant. Overall, the correlations obtained between POMS scores and CK levels were high (around 0.3 on average), even higher than those obtained by Mashiko et al. (22) with rugby players. However, the sample size of the present study is very small, and a higher correlation value is needed to achieve statistical significance. Therefore, although there was only one significant correlation between POMS domains and CK levels, it could be said that results are consistent with previous research (22), indicating a potential relationship between mood and muscle damage. Further research is needed to clarify the influence of muscle damage markers on mood.

Although a limitation of the study is the small sample size, it should also be noted that the specific characteristics of teams in the America's Cup make it difficult to involve more participants in the study. Considering the special features of each team and the particularities of this competition, our results cannot be extended to other America's Cup challengers or even to other sailing sports.

In conclusion, the emotional profile of this America's Cup yachting crew assessed by POMS was stable, with high anger and depression scores compared with normative data. This was especially apparent in sailors performing high intensity physical work. In addition, the occurrence of a previous injury did not show any interference with mood. Only the fatigue domain before racing correlated with enzyme markers of muscle damage. A more comprehensive study of mood state in sailing sports and its relationship with injury, recovery, and performance is therefore required.

No funding was received for this project.

Authors disclose professional relationships with companies or manufacturers who will benefit from the results of the present study.

The results of the present study do not constitute endorsement of the product by the authors or American College of Sports Medicine.

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