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European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 5, pp 919–926 | Cite as

Can the use of a single integrated unitary autonomic index provide early clues for eventual eligibility for olympic games?

  • Daniela Lucini
  • Roberto Sala
  • Antonio Spataro
  • Mara Malacarne
  • Manuela Benzi
  • Stefano Tamorri
  • Massimo Pagani
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

Optimal autonomic regulation and stress resilience might be considered critical elements of athletic performance. We hypothesize that a novel unitary autonomic index for sports (ANSIs), together with a somatic stress related symptom score (4SQ) might help characterize athletes who were eventually selected for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Italian team (Rio +).

Methods

In this retrospective study we examined 778 athletes (age 24.4 ± 6.7 yrs) who underwent a planned yearly pre-participation screening. All athletes underwent clinical, autonomic and exercise ECG evaluation. The combination of vagal and sympathetic indices from RR variability into ANSIs was performed by radar plot and percent ranking of index variables. We assessed (Rio +) versus (Rio −) athletes also after subdivision into three sport intensity groups (low, mid and high intensity).

Results

Overall there were no significant differences between (Rio +) and (Rio −) athletes when considering individual spectral derived variables. Conversely, the unitary Index ANSIs was significantly higher in (Rio +) compared to (Rio −) athletes (respectively 54.5 ± 29.5 and 47.9 ± 28.4 p = 0.014). This difference was particularly evident (p = 0.017) in the group of athletes characterized by both high static and dynamic components. 4SQ was smaller in the (Rio +) group, particularly in the groups of athletes characterized by both low-medium static and dynamic components.

Conclusions

ANSIs, a proxy of integrated cardiac autonomic regulation and simple assessment of resilience to stress, may differentiate Italian athletes who were eventually selected for participation in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games from those who were not, suggesting the possibility of a “winning functional phenotype”.

Keywords

Olympic Games Elite athletes Autonomic nervous system Stress resilience 

Abbreviations

4SQ

Somatic Stress Related Symptom Score

a.m

Morning

A.U.

Arbitrary units

ANS

Autonomic nervous system

ANSI

Unitary multivariate percent ranked ANS index

ANSIs

Unitary autonomic index for sports

AR

Autoregressive

BMI

Body mass index

CM5

ECG chest lead

CONI

Italian national olympic committee

DC

Deceleration capacity

e.g.

For example

ECG

Electrocardiogram

HF

High frequency

HRV

Heart rate variability

J-T

Jonckheere terpstra

LF

Low frequency

nu

Normalized units

PC

Personal computer

RRV

RR Interval variability

SD

Standard deviation

SPSS

Statistical package for the social sciences

Δ

Difference

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Dana Alon Shiffer (LA, CA, USA) for mother tongue language and English style assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

421_2018_3822_MOESM1_ESM.doc (84 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 83 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BIOMETRA University of MilanoRozzano (Milano)Italy
  2. 2.Exercise Medicine UnitHumanitas Clinical and Research CenterRozzano (Milano)Italy
  3. 3.Sports Medicine Institute CONI RomeRomeItaly

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