Parachute Jumping Induces More Sympathetic Activation Than Cortisol Secretion in First-Time Parachutists

 Giovanni Messina 1, * ; Sergio Chieffi 1 ; Andrea Viggiano 2 ; Domenico Tafuri 3 ; Giuseppe Cibelli 4 ; Anna Valenzano 4 ; Antonio Ivano Triggiani 4 ; Antonietta Messina 1 ; Vincenzo De Luca 5 ; and Marcellino Monda 1
1 Department of Experimental Medicine, Section of Human Physiology, Second University Of Naples, Naples, Italy
2 Department of Medicine and Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy
3 Department of Motor Sciences and Wellness, University of Naples Parthenope, Naples, Italy
4 Department of Biomedical Sciences, University Of Foggia, Foggia, Italy
5 Department of Psychiatry, University Of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Asian Journal of Sports Medicine

Background: The word “stress” describes the status of the body affected by external or internal forces, or “stressors”, threatening to alter its dynamic balance or homeostasis. The adaptive changes which occur in reply to stressors are either behavioral or physical. Once a given threshold is surpassed, a systemic reaction takes place involving the “stress system” in the brain together with its peripheral components, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic sympathetic.

Objectives: Stress induces an activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the SNS and the HPA axis would show parallel or divergent stress response patterns in a session of first parachute jump.

Patients and Methods: Activation of the SNS was evaluated by dosage of salivary alpha-amylase, galvanic skin responses, and heart rate in seven male novice parachutists. Activation of HPA axis was tested by dosage of cortisol. These variables were measured before and 1 minute and 90 minute after the jump.

Results: All variables reached a peak at 1 minute post-jump. Salivary alpha-amylase, galvanic skin responses and heart rate did not return to basal value at 90 minutes post-jump, while cortisol returned to basal value at 90 minutes post-jump.

Conclusions: This evidence indicates that parachute jumping is accompanied by a dissociation of SNS and HPA response patterns in novice parachutists, showing a slower recovery in sympathetic activity than in cortisol secretion.

Keywords: Autonomic Nervous System; Glucocorticoids; Emotional Stress

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