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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 May 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Evidence of Parasympathetic Hyperactivity in Functionally Overreached Athletes.

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1National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance, Laboratory of Sport, Expertise and Performance, Paris, France 2University Paris 13 North, Sorbonne Paris City, Laboratory of Functional and Cellular Responses to Hypoxia, EA2363, Bobigny, France 3Sports Performance Laboratory, Sports Medicine Program, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, 95816, USA 4French National Ski Center, Prémanon, France 5National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance, Medical Department, Paris, France 6CESeM, CNRS, University Paris Descartes, Paris, France.



We analyzed heart rate variability (HRV) to detect alterations in autonomic function that may be associated with functional overreaching (F-OR) in endurance athletes.


Twenty one trained male triathletes were randomly assigned to either intensified training (n=13) or normal training (n=8) groups during 5 weeks. HRV measures were taken daily during a one-week moderate training (baseline), three weeks of overload training and a one-week taper.


All the subjects of the intensified training group demonstrated a decrease in maximal incremental running test performance at the end of the overload period (-9.0±2.1% of baseline value) followed by a performance supercompensation after the taper and were therefore diagnosed as F-OR. According to a qualitative statistical analysis method, a likely to very likely negative effect of F-OR on HR was observed at rest in supine and standing positions, using isolated 7th day values and weekly average values, respectively. When considering the values obtained once per week, no clear effect of F-OR on HRV parameters was found. In contrast, the weekly mean of each HRV parameter showed a larger change in indices of parasympathetic tone in the F-OR group than the control group in supine position (with a 96/4/0% chance to demonstrate a positive/trivial/negative effect on LnRMSSD after the overload period; 77/22/1% on LnHF) and standing position [98/1/1% on LnRMSSD; 99/0/1% on LnHF; 95/1/4% on Ln(LF+HF)]. During the taper, theses responses were reversed.


Using daily HRV recordings averaged over each week, this study detected a progressive increase in the parasympathetic modulation of HR in endurance athletes led to F-OR. It also revealed that due to a wide day-to-day variability, isolated, once per week HRV recordings may not detect training-induced autonomic modulations in F-OR athletes.

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