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Heart Rate Variability and Training Load Among National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 College Football Players Throughout Spring Camp

Flatt, Andrew A.1,2; Esco, Michael R.1; Allen, Jeff R.3; Robinson, James B.3; Earley, Ryan L.4; Fedewa, Michael V.1; Bragg, Amy5; Keith, Clay M.3; Wingo, Jonathan E.1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 11 - p 3127–3134
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002241
Original Research
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Flatt, AA, Esco, MR, Allen, JR, Robinson, JB, Earley, RL, Fedewa, MV, Bragg, A, Keith, CM, and Wingo, JE. Heart rate variability and training load among National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 college football players throughout spring camp. J Strength Cond Res 32(11): 3127–3134, 2018—The purpose of this study was to determine whether recovery of cardiac-autonomic activity to baseline occurs between consecutive-day training sessions among positional groups of a collegiate football team during Spring camp. A secondary aim was to evaluate relationships between chronic (i.e., 4-week) heart rate variability (HRV) and training load parameters. Baseline HRV (lnRMSSD_BL) was compared with HRV after ∼20 hours of recovery before next-day training (lnRMSSDpost20) among positional groups composed of SKILL (n = 11), MID-SKILL (n = 9), and LINEMEN (n = 5) with a linear mixed model and effect sizes (ES). Pearson and partial correlations were used to quantify relationships between chronic mean and coefficient of variation (CV) of lnRMSSD (lnRMSSD_chronic and lnRMSSDcv, respectively) with the mean and CV of PlayerLoad (PL_chronic and PL_cv, respectively). A position × time interaction was observed for lnRMSSD (p = 0.01). lnRMSSD_BL was higher than lnRMSSDpost20 for LINEMEN (p < 0.01; ES = large), whereas differences for SKILL and MID-SKILL were not statistically different (p > 0.05). Players with greater body mass experienced larger reductions in lnRMSSD (r = −0.62, p < 0.01). Longitudinally, lnRMSSDcv was significantly related to body mass (r = 0.48) and PL_chronic (r = −0.60). After adjusting for body mass, lnRMSSDcv and PL_chronic remained significantly related (r = −0.43). The ∼20-hour recovery time between training sessions on consecutive days may not be adequate for restoration of cardiac-parasympathetic activity to baseline among LINEMEN. Players with a lower chronic training load throughout camp experienced greater fluctuation in lnRMSSD (i.e., lnRMSSDcv) and vice versa. Thus, a capacity for greater chronic workloads may be protective against perturbations in cardiac-autonomic homeostasis among American college football players.

1Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama;

2Department of Health Sciences, Armstrong State University, Savannah, Georgia;

3Department of Athletics, Sports Medicine, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama;

4Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and

5Department of Athletics, Sports Nutrition, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Address correspondence to Andrew A. Flatt, aflatt@crimson.ua.edu.

Copyright © 2018 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.