In esports medicine, it’s often necessary to look at adjacent fields with more robust bodies of research to draw parallels. This paper in the field of chess medicine discusses the neuroendocrine response patterns of chess players during competition, specifically in relation to testosterone and cortisol levels. These hormones are known to play a role in competitive behavior, social dominance, and status-seeking behaviors.
It is thought that testosterone levels may rise during competition as players strive to maintain their social status and dominance in the gaming community. This study found that chess players experienced a significant increase in testosterone levels when playing against a higher-rated opponent.
Cortisol, on the other hand, is a hormone that is released in response to stress and can impact cognitive performance, attention, and memory. High levels of cortisol have been associated with reduced cognitive function and decreased attention, which could have implications for chess players during competition. This study did not find a significant correlation between cortisol levels and chess performance.
In the context of esports medicine, parallels can be drawn as competitive video gaming shares many similarities with chess in terms of strategy, skill, and competition. Like chess, esports involves players competing against each other in a highly competitive environment where quick decision-making and strategy are pillars of performance.
Therefore, it is possible that esports players may also experience similar fluctuations in testosterone and cortisol levels during competition, as they strive to maintain their social status and dominance in the gaming community. Further research could explore the neuroendocrine response patterns of esports players and the potential similarities or differences compared to chess players.
The paper begins by discussing the relationship between testosterone levels and competitive behavior, with a focus on the “Challenge Hypothesis” theory that testosterone levels rise during breeding season to allow animals to fight for resources. The neuroendocrine response patterns to sport competition have been researched previously, including in chess tournaments, where winners presented higher testosterone levels than losers.
The study aimed to analyze whether chess players showed any testosterone and cortisol differences related to pre-competitive response or time spent on opening moves when playing against a higher-rated opponent. The sample consisted of six male participants who were active chess players and had an ELO rating of 2217.67 ± 112.67, and the study found that the participants’ testosterone levels increased significantly when playing against a higher-rated opponent. The findings have implications for esports medicine as they provide insight into the neuroendocrine response patterns in competitive esports settings.
In this study, researchers investigated the influence of chess Elo rating differences between opponents on hormonal responses and behavioral outcomes in chess players. The study found that a higher Elo rating difference between opponents was related to an increase in pre-competition testosterone concentration in the opponent, but not to cortisol concentration. The amount of time spent on the first few moves and the number of errors made were not significantly correlated with Elo rating differences between opponents. Additionally, the study found that changes in individual testosterone concentration were related to the Elo rating differences between players. However, there was no significant correlation between hormonal changes and the outcome of the previous game, indicating that hormonal fluctuations were not influenced by the previous outcome.
Based on the study’s findings, health or performance professionals working with esports athletes should consider the following clinical takeaways:
Mendoza G, Jiménez M, García-Romero J, García-Bastida J, Rivilla I, de Albornoz-Gil MC, Baron-Lopez FJ, Benítez-Porres J, Alvero-Cruz JR. Challenging the Top Player: A Preliminary Study on Testosterone Response to An Official Chess Tournament. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 13;17(4):1204. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041204. PMID: 32069979; PMCID: PMC7068374.
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