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Higher Testosterone Found in Winning Wrestlers, Chess Players


What does it take to be a winning wrestler? A new study reports that higher testosterone levels were found in men who won their wrestling matches when compared with those who lost. More testosterone is not limited to wrestlers, however, as another study has shown higher levels of the hormone in chess players as well.

Higher testosterone levels linked to competitive behavior

The new study, published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, was led by Andrew C. Fry, PhD, CSCS, of University of Kansas. He and his team collected blood samples from collegiate wrestlers before and after matches to measure levels of testosterone and other hormones.

When hormone levels of the winners and losers of the matches were compared, testosterone levels rose in both groups of athletes. However, average testosterone levels increased more among wrestlers who won their matches compared with those who did not.

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Although changes in the levels of two other hormones—cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) did not differ between winners and losers, the change in adrenaline levels among the winning wrestlers was significantly related to their testosterone changes. According to the study’s authors, “These data suggest that winning wrestlers may use a different regulatory mechanism for their acute testosterone responses than losers.”

Elevated testosterone levels have been studied in other athletes as well, ranging from high resistance weight trainers to basketball players. However, an increase in testosterone levels is not limited to physically competitive activities.

In a study conducted in Japan, saliva samples were collected from 90 healthy male university students who were members of a competitive Japanese chess club (shogi) immediately before and after playing chess, and again 30 minutes later. The researchers found an increase in testosterone and cortisol in the saliva of players, regardless of whether they had won or lost. Increases were more pronounced the more competitive the game.

The authors of the new study suggest their findings of higher testosterone in winning wrestlers “may present an excellent example of survival of the athlete within the construct of competitive sport performance.” It is also possible the results may have applications in athletic training.

Fry AC et al. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2011 Jan; 25(1): 40-45
Hasegawa M et al. Biomedical Research 2008 Feb; 29(1): 43-46