Is overtraining a functional dysorders of athletes?

F. Perego, M. Gianni, Sara Biagiotti, S. Colombo, F. Barbic, Raffaello Furlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Overtraining is a chronic syndrome characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, depression, sleep modifications, nervousness, muscle and joint pain and reduction of physical performance. Its pathophysiology is elusive. Animal and human studies suggest different etiopathogenetic hypothesis. Chronic inflammation theory hypothesizes the shift from a local inflammatory state, due to microtrauma, to a more generalized inflammatory condition characterized by increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine such as IL-1, IL-6 and TNFα, promoting muscle soreness and fatigue. Autonomic nervous system abnormalities consistent with a progression from a vagal predominance to a sympathetic over-activity seem to be also present and may account for irritability, sleep disturbances and palpitations. A generalized imbalance of stress hormones and in tryptophan metabolism have been hypothesized on the basis of abnormal plasma levels of cortisol and serotonin. Interruption of physical activity is, at the moment, the most important non-pharmacological therapeutic suggestion, although a good compliance is very difficult to achieve in high level athletes. Serotonin re-uptake inhibitor drugs might represent a new approach to ameliorate symptoms and interfere with possible pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Functional Syndromes
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Overtraining
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Leadership and Management


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