Research Topic

New Perspectives on the Endocrinology of Physical Activity and Sport

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Physical activity is highly recommended for the improvement of life quality, expectancy, prevention of multiple disorders as well as their complications, and has been safely extended to high risk populations. The highly politicized benefits of exercise lead to a substantial raise over ten years by more than ...

Physical activity is highly recommended for the improvement of life quality, expectancy, prevention of multiple disorders as well as their complications, and has been safely extended to high risk populations. The highly politicized benefits of exercise lead to a substantial raise over ten years by more than 300% in physically active subjects and more than 50% in elite athletes.

However, although the effects of physical activity on cardiovascular health, neuromuscular system, glucose and lipid metabolism are largely explored, there is an extensive lack of knowledge on physiological hormonal adaptations to sports. This has been largely due to a lack of interest from endocrinology researchers and endocrinology societies. Moreover, the lack of consistent findings has been due to in part to methodological challenges, poor hormonal assessment, and the highly heterogenous populations of athletes.

Recently, the Endocrine and Metabolic Responses on Overtraining Syndrome (EROS) study showed that normal ranges of hormones and other biochemical parameters used for general populations should not be applied for athletes, as multiple intrinsic hormonal adaptive changes in athletes were found, suggesting that specific `normal' ranges for athletes need to be determined.

Since it is unknown what to physiologically expect from healthy athletes, the diagnosis of overt endocrine dysfunctions in athletes as well as sports-related conditions has proved difficult, as any `alteration' observed is not necessarily pathological when it occurs in an athlete.
The example of Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) is emblematic. Initially caused by an imbalance between training and resting that leads to reduced performance and fatigue, OTS failed to demonstrate accurate biomarkers and whether dysfunctions were absent or present. However, with some innovations on methodology, the EROS study demonstrated that parameters on OTS are neither absent nor overt, but relative, as these were altered compared to healthy athletes, but were normal when compared to the general population.

Considering that: 1. large proportions of subjects are now becoming physically active, 2. hormones likely undergo multiple adaptive processes in response to exercise, 3. normal ranges of hormones, metabolic and other biochemical parameters should be re-standardized for athletes, 4. the understanding of endocrine dysfunctions in athletes largely depends on the unclear endocrine physiology of the athlete, 4. endocrine disorders are highly prevalent and easily treatable, and 5. it is likely that hormonal adaptations are sex-, age-, BMI-, and sports-specific, it is critical that we conduct good quality studies on the hormonal physiology of athletes, including adaptations, acute and chronic responses, and how to assess, diagnose, and treat general and sports-specific hormonal dysfunctions. Therefore, this Research Topic will accept Original Research, Systematic Reviews, Reviews, and Perspective articles.

The aims of the proposed research topic are (but not limited to):
1. adaptive hormonal physiology of the athlete
2. correlations between hormonal conditioning and sports performance
3. particularities of the diagnosis of hormonal dysfunctions in athletes
4. diagnoses of sports-related metabolic dysfunctions from the perspective of the newly learned hormonal adaptations in athletes.


Keywords: Hormonal physiology in exercise, adaptive endocrine physiology to sports, hormones & athletes, Sports Endocrinology


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