Original research article| Volume 56, ISSUE 2, P59-65, August 1997

The effects of oral contraceptives on delayed onset muscle soreness following exercise

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      Several authors have suggested that estrogen may serve to protect skeletal muscle from exercise-induced damage. The present study examined the effects of regularly ingesting estrogen, in the form of oral contraceptives, on postexercise muscle damage following a bench-stepping regimen. Women currently ingesting oral contraceptives (OC) were compared with eumennorheic controls (CG). All subjects performed a 50-min stepping exercise during the midluteal phase of their menstrual cycle. Muscle damage was evaluated on 2, 3, and 5 days postexercise using several established indirect indicators: perceived soreness, strength and range of motion changes, girth measurements, and creatine kinase (CK) activity. Subjects on OC reported significantly lower quadriceps soreness (p < 0.05) relative to the CG (peak soreness = 4.0 and 7.8, respectively, on a scale of 1–10 where 1 is normal and 10 is very, very sore). These results indicate that oral contraceptive use attenuates soreness following an exhaustive stepping activity but cannot support a relationship between estrogen ingestion and other indices of exercise-induced muscle damage.


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