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Author Notes:

Correspondence: David A. Edwards,edwards@emory.edu

David A. Edwards conceived and designed the experiments, performed the experiments, analyzed the data, prepared figures and/or tables, authored or reviewed drafts of the paper, and approved the final draft.

Bulent Turan analyzed the data, authored or reviewed drafts of the paper, and approved the final draft

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests The authors declare there are no competing interests.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by an Emory University Candler Professor research award to David Edwards.


  • estradiol
  • testosterone
  • cortisol
  • hormone coupling
  • athletic competition
  • stress

Within-person coupling of estradiol, testosterone, and cortisol in women athletes


Journal Title:

PeerJ Life and Environment


Volume 8


Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Purpose In variety of settings cortisol and testosterone are positively “coupled.” That is, within-person fluctuations of cortisol and testosterone levels occur in parallel—increases and decreases in one hormone are associated with corresponding increases and decreases in the other. The present report explored hormone coupling in women athletes in two studies selected because they included measurements of salivary levels of cortisol, testosterone, and estradiol—a hormone that has been only infrequently studied in the context of competitive athletics. Methods Consenting members of Emory University’s varsity volleyball and soccer teams gave saliva samples on multiple occasions in the run-up to and over the course of two different intercollegiate contests. Results Volleyball and soccer players showed remarkably similar hormone-specific patterns of increase in relationship to the different stages of competition—before warm-up, after warm-up, and after competition. For both the volleyball and soccer team, Hierarchical Linear Model (HLM) analyses showed estradiol as being significantly coupled with testosterone which was also coupled with cortisol. Conclusions This is, apparently, the first report of significant within-person coupling between estradiol and testosterone in the context of competitive athletic stress. These two hormones may be coupled in a wide variety of circumstances not limited to ones involving sport competition, and results reported here should encourage exploration of the extent to which coordinated fluctuations in estradiol, testosterone, and cortisol levels are present in other, more neutral settings and the ways in which the coordination of these fluctuating hormone levels may benefit human performance.

Copyright information:

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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