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The monitoring of the menstrual status of female athletes by salivary steroid determination and ultrasonography.

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Research Unit of Biomedical and Clinical Kinanthropology, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.


This study was designed to evaluate whether traditional plasma hormone determinations can be adequately replaced by measurements of salivary hormones. Eleven young sportswomen with menstrual irregularities attributed to strenuous physical exercise participated in this study. Mean body weight expressed as a percentage of ideal body weight was 92%, SD 4%. Their mean weekly training distance was 35 km, SD 15. Basal plasma endocrinological measurements revealed a hypo-oestrogenic status (mean plasma oestradiol values: 22, SD 8.8), and a deficient luteal phase (mean plasma progesterone: 2.9, SD 2.1). Pre-exercise salivary sex steroids were low. Salivary progesterone levels were 39.3, SD 9.5 (normal ranges in saliva: 25-60, salivary oestrone (E1) was 12.2, SD 2.3 (normal ranges in saliva: 7.5-25, and salivary oestradiol (E2) less than 1.9, SD 1.1 (normally 1.0-10.0 After a 21-km run, all salivary steroids appeared to increase. Mean salivary testosterone levels increased by 15.2% and salivary progesterone by 14.8%. Mean salivary oestrogens also increased (E1: +13.9%; E2: +21.1%). These findings confirm the results of earlier studies which found higher post-exercise plasma sex steroid levels. Since salivary measurements are believed to reflect non-protein-bound, thus free steroid levels, the results obtained by these techniques may provide a more realistic picture of the hormonal effects of physical exercise. In future, more accurate, cost-effective and easier techniques for salivary measurements may offer additional advantages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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