Psychomotor speed: Possibly a new marker for overtraining syndrome

[Note: psychomotor speed is the speed of body motor movements independent of conscious control.]

Journal: Sports Medicine. 2006;36(10):817-28.

Authors and affiliation: Nederhof E, Lemmink KA, Visscher C, Meeusen R, Mulder T. Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. [E-mail: ]

PMID: 17004845

Overtraining syndrome (OTS) is a major threat for performance and health in athletes. Overtraining syndrome is caused by high levels of (sport-specific) stress in combination with too little regeneration, which causes performance decrements, fatigue and possibly other symptoms.

Although there is general consensus about the causes and consequences, many different terminologies have been used interchangeably. The consequences of overreaching and overtraining are divided into three categories:

1. Functional overreaching (FO);
2. Non-functional overreaching (NFO); and
3. Overtraining syndrome (OTS).

In functional overreaching, performance decrements and fatigue are reversed within a pre-planned recovery period. Functional overreaching has no negative consequences for the athlete in the long term; it might even have positive consequences.

When performance does not improve and feelings of fatigue do not disappear after the recovery period, overreaching has not been functional and is thus called non-functional overreaching.

Overtraining syndrome only applies to the most severe cases.

Non-functional overreaching and overtraining syndrome could be prevented using early markers, which should be objective, not manipulable, applicable in training practice, not too demanding, affordable and should be based on a sound theoretical framework.

No such markers exist up to today. It is proposed that psychomotor speed might be such a marker.

Overtraining syndrome shows similarities with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and with major depression. Through two meta-analyses, it is shown that psychomotor slowness is consistently present in both syndromes.

This leads to the hypothesis that psychomotor speed is also reduced in athletes with overtraining syndrome. Parallels between commonly used models for non-functional overreaching and overtraining syndrome and a threshold theory support the idea that psychomotor speed is impaired in athletes with non-functional overreaching or over-training syndrome and could also be used as an early marker to prevent non-functional overreaching and/or over-training syndrome.

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