elite female athletes

Testosterone is thought of as a male hormone, but women also make this androgen naturally. A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reveals that elite female athletes who have naturally high testosterone perform better than those with normal androgen levels.

Naturally High Testosterone Levels:

Hyperandrogenic disorder of sex development can produce abnormally high levels of testosterone in women. The investigators analyzed data for both male and female athletes from the 2011 and 2013 track and field world championships.

Male sprinters tended to have higher free testosterone levels than men in other events. On the other hand, those in throwing events averaged lower testosterone than men in other events. Testosterone levels in women didn’t appear to vary by the event.

How Does High Testosterone Affect Competition?

When women with high testosterone were compared to those with low levels of this male hormone, performance differed slightly. Nonetheless, the small differences were significant.

Although the improvements in events such as pole vault, 400 meter hurdles, 800 meter runs and the hammer-throw were modest, at this level of competition, even a small advantage can lead to a championship. The women competing in the hammer-throw did 4.53 percent better if they had elevated testosterone levels. That was the greatest difference among all the contestants.

Bermon & Garnier, British Journal of Sports Medicine, online, July 3, 2017 

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