Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
from September 2014
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2008) 07, 446 - 454

Research article
Psychophysiological responses in the pre-competition period in elite soccer players
Déborah Alix-Sy1, , Christine Le Scanff1, Edith Filaire2
Author Information
1 Centre de Recherches en Sciences du Sport, Université Paris-Sud 11, UFR STAPS, Cedex, France
2 LAPSEP, UFRSTAPS Orléans, Orléans Cedex, France

Déborah Alix-Sy
✉ Centre de Recherches en Sciences du Sport, Université Paris-Sud 11, UFR STAPS, Bâtiment 335, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France.
Publish Date
Received: 30-10-2007
Accepted: 09-07-2008
Published (online): 01-12-2008
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This study investigated pre-competition physiological and psychological states of eighteen elite soccer players. Salivary cortisol was assessed during a non- training day and before three league games. Affective states (unpleasant and pleasant, somatic and transactional emotions) were evaluated using the Tension and Effort-Stress Inventory before the three league games. Participants formed 2 groups, 11 starters and 7 non-starters, depending on the starting list established by the coach. All players reported more intense pleasant transactional and somatic emotions than unpleasant ones prior to all games (p < 0.05), and relatively stable profiles of these psychological responses were observed across the three league games. However, salivary cortisol levels increased during pre-game for all players in comparison with the non- training day (p < 0.001). This anticipatory rise was only related to unpleasant somatic emotions (p < 0.001). This demonstrates that cortisol can be used as an index of emotional response to competition.

Key words: Emotions, affect, salivary cortisol

           Key Points
  • Elite athletes perceive the participation to competition as a challenging situation as they experience more pleasant emotions than unpleasant ones in the pre-competition period. This profile is relatively stable across three league games, which is possibly due to the athletes' experience at this level.
  • Participation to competition lead to anticipatory acute response of cortisol in the pre-competition period, which potentially prepares the athlete to perform.
  • These responses are not related to status player (e.g., starter versus non-starter)
  • Physiological stress (e.g. anticipatory rise in cortisol concentrations) is related to negative somatic emotions.
  • Cortisol may constitute a measure of emotional response in pre-competition period.
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