Fatigue Shifts and Scatters Heart Rate Variability in Elite Endurance Athletes

Laurent Schmitt, Jacques Regnard, Maxime Desmarets, Fréderic Mauny, Laurent Mourot, Jean Pierre Fouillot, Nicolas Coulmy, Grégoire Millet

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Purpose:This longitudinal study aimed at comparing heart rate variability (HRV) in elite athletes identified either in 'fatigue' or in 'no-fatigue' state in 'real life' conditions.Methods:57 elite Nordic-skiers were surveyed over 4 years. R-R intervals were recorded supine (SU) and standing (ST). A fatigue state was quoted with a validated questionnaire. A multilevel linear regression model was used to analyze relationships between heart rate (HR) and HRV descriptors [total spectral power (TP), power in low (LF) and high frequency (HF) ranges expressed in ms2 and normalized units (nu)] and the status without and with fatigue. The variables not distributed normally were transformed by taking their common logarithm (log10).Results:172 trials were identified as in a 'fatigue' and 891 as in 'no-fatigue' state. All supine HR and HRV parameters (Beta±SE) were significantly different (P<0.0001) between 'fatigue' and 'no-fatigue': HRSU (+6.27±0.61 bpm), logTPSU (-0.36±0.04), logLFSU (-0.27±0.04), logHFSU (-0.46±0.05), logLF/HFSU (+0.19±0.03), HFSU(nu) (-9.55±1.33). Differences were also significant (P<0.0001) in standing: HRST (+8.83±0.89), logTPST (-0.28±0.03), logLFST (-0.29±0.03), logHFST (-0.32±0.04). Also, intra-individual variance of HRV parameters was larger (P<0.05) in the 'fatigue' state (logTPSU: 0.26 vs. 0.07, logLFSU: 0.28 vs. 0.11, logHFSU: 0.32 vs. 0.08, logTPST: 0.13 vs. 0.07, logLFST: 0.16 vs. 0.07, logHFST: 0.25 vs. 0.14).Conclusion:HRV was significantly lower in 'fatigue' vs. 'no-fatigue' but accompanied with larger intra-individual variance of HRV parameters in 'fatigue'. The broader intra-individual variance of HRV parameters might encompass different changes from no-fatigue state, possibly reflecting different fatigue-induced alterations of HRV pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere71588
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Schmitt, L., Regnard, J., Desmarets, M., Mauny, F., Mourot, L., Fouillot, J. P., ... Millet, G. (2013). Fatigue Shifts and Scatters Heart Rate Variability in Elite Endurance Athletes. PLoS One, 8(8), [e71588]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071588