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Recovery From a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Football Game: Muscle Damage and Hormonal Status

Kraemer, William J1; Spiering, Barry A1; Volek, Jeff S1; Martin, Gerard J3; Howard, Robert L1,2; Ratamess, Nicholas A1; Hatfield, Disa L1; Vingren, Jakob L1; Ho, Jen Yu1; Fragala, Maren S1; Thomas, Gwendolyn A1; French, Duncan N1; Anderson, Jeffrey M1,2; Häkkinen, Keijo4; Maresh, Carl M1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: January 2009 - Volume 23 - Issue 1 - p 2-10
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31819306f2
Original Research

Kraemer, WJ, Spiering, BA, Volek, JS, Martin, GJ, Howard, RL, Ratamess, NA, Hatfield, DL, Vingren, JL, Ho, JY, Fragala, MS, Thomas, GA, French, DN, Anderson, JM, Häkkinen, K, and Maresh, CM. Recovery from a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football game: muscle damage and hormonal status. J Strength Cond Res 23(1): 2-10, 2009-Recovery from an American football game has had limited study. The purpose of this study was to examine markers of skeletal muscle tissue damage and circulating anabolic and catabolic hormones to gain insight into the recovery process from Friday until Monday, when a new practice week begins. Twenty-eight National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football players gave consent to participate in the investigation in the ninth game of the season. Sixteen players started the game and played the entire game (PL), and 12 others did not play and were on the bench during the game (DNP). Each player had fasted blood samples obtained at the same time of day between 1000 and 1200 hours the day before the game (Friday; T1), 18-20 hours after the game (Sunday; T2), and then 42-44 hours after the game (Monday; T3). Blood samples were analyzed for concentrations of creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), myoglobin, testosterone, and cortisol. The PL players showed significantly (p ≤ 0.05) increased concentrations of CK (T2 > T1 and T3), myoglobin (T2 > T1 and T3), and LDH (T2 > T1). In contrast, DNP players showed significant differences in cortisol (T3 < T1 and T2) and testosterone:cortisol (T3 > T1). Few changes were observed in testosterone and cortisol changes, indicating stability of the anabolic/catabolic hormones. In conclusion, these data indicate that participation in a college football game late in the season results in some degree of tissue damage but with minimal hormonal responses, which seem to have stabilized at resting concentrations without predominance of cortisol's catabolic presence. As previously noted in the literature, some type of “contact adaptation” to the season may have occurred with regard to tissue damage responses. However, by the ninth game of a season, players do carry soft tissue damage levels above resting ranges into subsequent games, indicating that recovery should be monitored, with coaches being careful with scheduling scrimmage and full-contact drills. How such data implicate overuse injuries remains unclear, considering that hormonal status in this study was highly stable, with catabolic influences minimized by the high level of athlete conditioning. These data again support that high-level conditioning can stabilize anabolic and catabolic hormonal signals and limit acute soft tissue injury, making cerebral concussion (acute and chronic) and traumatic injury the biggest threats to a student-athlete's health and well-being during an American football game.

1Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, 2Department of Sports Medicine, and 3Strength and Conditioning, Division of Athletics, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut; and 4Department of Biology of Physical Activity and Neuromuscular Research Center, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland

Address correspondence to William J. Kraemer,

© 2009 National Strength and Conditioning Association