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Javier A. Zaragoza, CSCS – Graduate Assistant, University Mary Hardin-Baylor

Andreas Kreutzer – Instructional Lab Coordinator, Texas Christian University

Jonathan M. Oliver – Assistant Professor and Director, Sport Science Center, Texas Christian University

Anthony Anzalone – Medical Student, Wake Forest School of Medicine

Tori Como – Research Associate, UNT Health Science Center

David Julovich – Senior Research Associate, UNT Health Science Center

James Hall – Professor, UNT Health Science Center

Sid O'Bryant – Professor, UNT Health Science Center

Stacie Urbina – Assistant Director, Human Performance Lab, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

Lemuel Taylor – Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor


Accumulation of physiological stress over the course of a season may affect the ability of the athletes to maintain competitive training and match demands. During the competitive season, collegiate athletes are faced with other stressors such as, but not limited to, work and school. With a condensed schedule of up to 3 games within 4 days, exacerbation of these metabolic and mechanical stressors during periods of prolonged exposure may be damaging to the players. PURPOSE: To examine the fluctuations of inflammatory markers during the competitive season as related to repetitive subconcussive impacts of the head. METHODS: Sixteen National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) male soccer athletes (20.1±1.3 years, 178.6±8.3 cm, 77.8±11.3 kg, 15.0±6.0 %BF) participated in weekly blood sampling through an 18-week season. Athlete statistics of minutes played (MP), and headers (HEAD) were collected post-season from the coaches. Headers were defined as any impact of the players’ head with the ball. Serum samples were stored at -80°C until analysis for TNF-α, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and interleukin-10 (IL-10) using a Quanterix™ Simoa HD-1 analyzer. We used R statistical language and the lme4 statistical package to perform a linear mixed effects analysis of the relationships of MP and HEAD with TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10. We included the intercept for subjects as a random effects, and time point (TP), MP and HEAD (without the interaction term) as fixed effects. P values for model comparisons were obtained by likelihood ratio tests. RESULTS: TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10 had no significant changes over the course of the season when compared to baseline values. TNF-α was elevated in week 14 (0.384 pg/mL) when compared to baseline (0.33 pg/mL). IL-6 remained constant over time with little variations while IL-10 seemed to decrease over time. Adding MP or HEAD did not improve the model fit over models with time points only. The estimates for the effects of MP and HEAD for TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10 were low and sometimes negative. CONCLUSIONS: In our study, neither MP nor HEAD were significant predictors for TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10 across the course of an NCAA Men’s soccer season. Concentrations of these cytokines seemed to only slightly vary across the season with slight fluctuations decreasing towards the end of the season. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: The results of this investigation suggest that TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10 are not significantly raised during an NCAA Men’s soccer season at both time points and MP or HEAD. Although this study did not show differences in inflammatory markers across the season, recovery and nutrition are still important to manage the potential for these inflammatory markers to raise across the season. Research reported in this publication was supported (in part) by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01AG051848, R01AG058537, and R01AG058252. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. 


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