Overtraining is an imbalance between training and recovery leading to symptoms associated with a neuroendocrine dysbalance called the overtraining syndrome, a disease characterized by behavioral, emotional and physical symptoms similar with depression. Although the prevalence of overtraining is high in human and equine athletes, at present no sensitive and specific test is available to prevent or diagnose overtraining. Nowadays, it is believed that combination of different (hormonal) parameters appear to be the best indicators of overtraining. Therefore, this review provides a summary of previous literature examining the response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the growth hormone-insulin-like growth factor-I (GH-IGF-I) axis to acute and chronic exercise as well as overtraining in humans and horses. The exercise induced hormonal responses seem to be equal for the equine as well as the human athlete, which makes comparisons possible. Repeated bouts of exercise are suggested to provide a way to detect subtle changes in hormonal responses in the individual athlete, which may make them an important tool in detecting early overtraining. This should be combined with corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation tests and basal ACTH and GH pulsatility determination. Further research is needed to establish the correct training intensity and rest period for the exercise test in equines.
de Graaf-Roelfsema, E., Keizer, H. A., van Breda, E., Wijnberg, I. D., & van der Kolk, J. H. (2007). Hormonal responses to acute exercise, training and overtraining. A review with emphasis on the horse. Veterinary Quarterly, 29(3), 82-101. https://doi.org/10.1080/01652176.2007.9695232