Overtraining in sport: physiological, psychological and performance effects of participation in division I competitive softball.
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Marcello, Brandon M.
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Overtraining has been one of the most popular topics in meetings and journals dealing with top-level sports. The problem has been well known for 70 years, but many specifics concerning overtraining are still very unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine the acute and chronic effects of a competitive softball season on its respective players competing at the Division I level, and to determine if there were any global changes in performance, physiological or psychological variables which indicated some type of overtraining syndrome. Twenty female subjects were recruited for this study. Twelve subjects were recruited from the University Softball team (SB) (20.3 ± 1.2 yrs), the other eight from the general student population (GEN) (22.0 ± 1.4 yrs). Participants were measured at preseason and 3 time points throughout the 16-week season to assess changes in performance, physiological and performance variables. Statistical analyses were performed by utilizing an ANOVA with repeated measures (level of significance was set at p < 0.05). Results indicated that many of the physiological, performance, and psychological variables examined during the duration of the study did not exhibit any significant changes. Relative peak power was the only performance variable in this study which elicited a significant group x time interaction (p < 0.05). However, observed changes in this variable indicated an increase across the season. A number of physiological variables demonstrated significant group x time interactions: lean body mass (p < 0.05), extra-cellular fluid (p < 0.05) and creatine kinase (p < 0.05). Psychometric testing revealed significant time effects discovered in feelings of fatigue (p < 0.05), feelings of being overtrained (p < 0.05), overwhelmed (p < 0.05) as well as feelings of being tired of school (p < 0.001) and never being able to get caught up (p < 0.05). Our findings indicate that the stresses placed upon collegiate softball players from a combination of their academic and athletic responsibilities indicate some perturbations in select variables which are indicative of overtraining syndrome (OTS). While OTS occurs in three phases (psychological, physiological, performance), negative changes in performance were not indicated. Physiologically, changes were elicited in a few variables, yet these variations remained within normal clinical ranges for this population.