Thyroid hormones and commonly cited symptoms of overtraining in collegiate female endurance runners



Overtraining syndrome (OTS) is reported in endurance sports. Thyroid hormones (TH) regulate metabolism, mood, and energy production, and may play a role in OTS of endurance athletes. The purpose of this study was to investigate relationships in TH and symptoms of OTS in track and field endurance runners (ER).


Sixteen female track and field middle distance (MD; n = 9; age: 20.2 ± 1.5 years; ht: 167.86 ± 5.04 cm; body-mass: 57.97 ± 5.05 kg; VO2MAX: 53.62 ± 6.04 ml/kg/min) and long distance (LD; n = 7; age: 20.5 ± 1.5 years; ht: 162.48 ± 6.11 cm; body-mass: 56.15 ± 5.99 kg; VO2MAX: 61.94 ± 3.29 ml/kg/min) ER participated in this descriptive study (15-weeks). Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T 3), and thyroxine (T 4), were collected at pre-(PRE) and post-season (POST). A fatigue scale was administered weekly, and percent change (PΔ) in race time (season best vs. championship performance) was calculated. Wilcoxon-sign ranked tests and Spearman’s rho correlations were used to determine changes and relationships between TH and performance.


TSH, T 3 and T 4 did not change from PRE to POST. The percent change (PΔ) in T 3 from PRE to POST was correlated with running performance at the end of the season (ρ = − 0.70, p = 0.036). Fatigue at week 12 correlated with running performance at the end of the season (ρ = − 0.74, p = 0.004).


TH may be valuable in assessing the overall training state of ER. TH concentrations change too slowly to be a frequent marker of monitoring OTS, but are related to markers of decreased performance. Monitoring dietary intake, and fatigue may be predictive markers to assess OTS and training status of female ER.

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Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Endurance runners


Total calorie consumption


Long distance


Middle distance


Overtraining syndrome


Percent delta change







T 3 :


T 4 :



Thyroid hormones


Thyroid stimulating hormone


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We would like to thank the athletes and coaches of the women’s track and field team for assistance and participation in the completion of this investigation.

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Correspondence to Disa L. Hatfield.

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Communicated by Fabio Fischetti.

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Nicoll, J.X., Hatfield, D.L., Melanson, K.J. et al. Thyroid hormones and commonly cited symptoms of overtraining in collegiate female endurance runners. Eur J Appl Physiol 118, 65–73 (2018).

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  • Performance
  • Overreaching
  • Overtraining fatigue
  • Nutrition
  • Athletes