Female athletes who are better fit at the start of the season may be more prone to “overreaching” during a team sport as the season progresses than their less-fit counterparts.

If this “overreaching” is not addressed, it could lead to overtraining syndrome, in which an athlete trains beyond the body’s ability to recover, according to a media release from Quest Diagnostics.

In the study, researchers from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey tested athletes at the beginning of training camp and during midseason using Blueprint for Athletes, a laboratory testing service of the Sports and Human Performance franchise of Quest Diagnostics, to examine patterns of hormonal and biochemical changes associated with overreaching in the athletes.

Results from the biomarker monitoring showed higher levels of IL6, cortisol, prolactin, and creatine kinase through the first half of the competitive season in fitter athletes, suggesting increased muscle breakdown, inflammation and stress as a body enters a more catabolic state, per the release.

“These findings suggest that a ‘Fit Athlete Paradox’ may exist: despite visual and other external assessments that suggest otherwise, the most highly trained female athletes may be the ones who are most vulnerable to overreaching during the athletic season,” says Shawn Arent, PhD, FACSM, Rutgers University and a member of the Medical and Scientific Board for Blueprint for Athletes, in the release.

“Even within the first four to eight weeks of the season, this is resulting in increased physiological perturbation for the more fit athletes. It’s critical that coaches and athletes consistently monitor for signs of fatigue, body stress and indicators of breakdown to mitigate early signs of non-functional overreaching,” Arent continues.

The study, “Biomarkers Changes In Collegiate Female Power-Endurance Athletes: The Role of Fitness As a Predictor,” was a poster presentation during the recent American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting in Boston.

[Source(s): Quest Diagnostics, PR Newswire]