Influence of contest results and psychological traits on incidence of nucleus abnormalities in buccal epithelium of hand-to-hand combat athletes


Dr.Biol., Professor V.N. Kalaev1
Lecturer M.S. Nechaeva2
Associate Professor, PhD A.V. Sysoyev3
Associate Professor, PhD I.E. Popova3
1Voronezh State University, Voronezh
2Voronezh State Medical University named after N.N. Burdenko, Voronezh
3Voronezh State Institute of Physical Training, Voronezh

Keywords: buccal epithelial cells, anomalies of nuclear morphology, combat sports, psychoemotional state.

Introduction. The aphorism "The winners' wounds heal faster" is attributed to Napoleon's doctor. This fact had puzzled doctors in the army of Alexander the Great two thousand years before Bonaparte. It is, indeed, unclear, why a wound on the shoulder of the victorious army soldier heals fast, while it takes weeks for a soldier whose army was defeated. [12]

In sports, it is hard to avoid defeat as well as victory. In some cases, the loss results in deep psychological traumas and "traces". For some athletes who do not know how to overcome their failures, defeat may become a serious personal drama causing them to quit sports completely. The problem concerns, first of all, junior athletes, as they are mentally and emotionally immature and extremely vulnerable in this respect [2].

[1, 6, 8] have demonstrated that aggressive energy can be accumulated, and if it has no way out, it results not only in "higher response readiness, but in many other and more serious problems that involve the whole organism" [8, 11]. It is thus important to consider the influence of participation in contests and their results on the stability of the genetic apparatus of athletes.

Therefore, the objective of our research was to study the cytogenetic effects in athletes, depending on their place in the contest and their level of aggressiveness.

Methods and structure of the research. The research was conducted on the basis of the Voronezh regional public organization "Federation Army unarmed combat". Subject to study was a group of 17 athletes aged 11-13.

The condition of the athletes' genetic homeostasis was assessed by means of micronucleus test in buccal epithelium [5, 9]. All the stages of the research – collecting the material, manufacturing the preparations and staining them with azure-eosin by Romanovsky-Giemsa - were performed as described previously in [4] – 5 and 2 days prior to the event, during the event and 3 and 6 days after the event.

A minimum of 1000 cells were analysed in each preparation, and the number of cells with various aberrations was determined in accordance with the recommendations by Kalaeva et al. [5].

During the fights, the athletes wore protective gear that prevented injuries to the face, and thus, the abnormalities observed are not to be considered the result of a microtrauma.

For each of the athletes, the incidence of aberrant cells of certain type was calculated as the ratio of the number of cells with certain aberrations to the total number of the analysed cells (‰). The incidence of all aberrations was calculated as the ration of the total number of aberrant cells to the total number of the analysed cells (‰).

The psychological characteristics of the contest participants were assessed using the following psychological tests:

  1. Spielberger State-Trait Anger Scale [10];
  2. U.P. Ilyin and P.A. Kovalev method for determining proneness to conflict and aggressiveness (positive and negative) as a personal trait [3].

The defined psychological characteristics remained constant throughout the contest.

The results were processed statistically using the Stadia 7.0 software package. The procedure of data grouping and processing were described by Kulaichev [7]. The numbers of abnormalities in individuals with different psychological characteristics and sports results were compared using the nonparametric criteria of Van der Waerden, as the distribution of incidences of aberrant cells is not subject to the normal law. As the sample in terms of negative aggressiveness and proneness to conflict was insufficient for the application of this criterion, the Z-test approximation criterion was used as equal frequencies criterion. The article presents the average values of the studied parameters, obtained from the study of four contest seasons.

Results and discussion. The highest level of epithelial cells with abnormal nuclei was observed on the 3rd day after the contest, which coincides with the data on the maximum output of abnormalities on 3rd-7th day after exposure to stress [5]. On day 6, the number of cells with aberrations decreases (Fig. 1).

This proves that there are similar reasons for cell formation associated with the stress experienced by the athletes during the contest, and the impact of psychoemotional state of the athlete before the fight and potential microtrauma obtained during the fight, on genome's stability.


Fig.1. Alterations in the incidences of cells with aberrations (average result of four contests).

Legend: a - the exact difference with the incidence of aberrant cell on day 3 after the contest (P <0.001); b - the exact difference with the incidence of aberrant cell on day 3 after the contest (P <0.01); c - the exact difference with the incidence of aberrant cell on day 6 after the contest (P <0.001); d - the exact difference with the incidence of aberrant cell on day of the contest (P <0.01); e - the exact difference with the incidence of aberrant cell on day of the contest (P <0.05).

The results obtained are consistent with the results obtained by Sharma et al. [13] that showed that professional sports can have negative impact on the genome.

The influence of the place in the contest on the incidence of nuclear abnormalities in cells is demonstrated. On day 3 after the contest, the athletes who did not win any prizes, had a greater number of cells with nucleus aberrations than the winners (the exact difference was measured (P <0.05). On the other days of the contest season the incidence of nuclear abnormalities in cells of winners and losers was the same. Moreover, for athletes with a higher level of aggression (in all forms) and related psychological characteristics, the difference between the number of abnormalities depending on the outcome of the contest was greater. So, when the athletes with the average level of negative aggressiveness, proneness to conflict and aggression as a trait of character, were defeated, the level of all the aberrations together was higher than that of the winners with similar psychological characteristics (the exact difference was measured (P <0.05). The effect of the outcome of the contest on the level of aberrations in the group with lower psychological indexes was not determined (Table 1).

Table 1. The incidence of nucleus aberrations (‰) in buccal epithelium of athletes with various psychological indicators depending on the outcome (win / loss) of contest (on the 3rd day after the contest)

Aberration type

Psychological characteristics



Total number of aberrant cells

Negative aggressiveness







Proneness to conflict







Aggression as a trait of character







Legend: * - the difference with the incidence of nucleus abnormalities in cells of the winners with higher psychological indexes are actual (P <0.05).

We can thus assume that the increased number of cells with abnormal nuclear morphology may result from the fault of the mitosis control mechanisms and the cell's repair systems caused by the stress after the loss.

Conclusion. The outcome of sport contests, therefore, effects the genetic apparatus of the athletes. Losers have more nuclear aberrations than winners. What is more, the influence of contest results on the number of aberrant cells is greater in athletes with higher psychological indexes of aggressiveness (negative aggression, proneness to conflict, aggression as a character trait).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. The work was supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation in the framework of the state order to higher education institutions in the sphere of scientific research for years 2014 - 2016. Project No. 1035 


  1. Bondar N.P. Narushenie sotsial'nogo raspoznavaniya u samtsov myshey s povtornym opytom agressii (Impaired Social Recognition in Male Mice with Repeated Experience of Aggression) / N.P. Bondar, N. Kudryavtseva // Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology. – 2005. – V. 55, №3. – P. 378–384
  2. Zhuravlev D.V. Psikhologicheskaya regulyatsiya i optimizatsiya funktsional'nykh sostoyaniy sportsmena (Psychological regulation and optimization of athlete's functional state) / D.V. Zhuravlev. – Moscow: MOSCOMSPORT, 2009. – 116 p.
  3. Ilyin E.P. Psikhologiya individual'nykh razlichiy (Psychology of individual differences) / E.P. Ilyin. – St. Petersburg: Piter, 2004 – 701 p.
  4. Kalaev V.N. Chastota vstrechaemosti kletok s morfologicheski anomal'nymi yadrami v bukkal'nom epitelii cheloveka pri raznykh sposobakh okrashivaniya (The effect of nuclear dyes on the frequency of aberrations in mucosal cells of humans) / V.N. Kalaev, V.G. Artyukhov, M.S. Nechaeva // Cell and Tissue Biology. – 2012. – V. 54, № 1 – P. 78 – 84.
  5. Kalaev V.N. Mikroyaderny test bukkal'nogo epiteliya rotovoy polosti cheloveka: problemy, dostizheniya, perspektivy (Micronucleus Test of Human Oral Cavity Buccal Epithelium: Problems, Achievement, Perspectives) / V.N. Kalaev, V.G. Artyukhov, M.S. Nechaeva // Cytology and genetics. – 2014 – V. 48, № 6. – P. 62–80.
  6. Kudryavtseva N.N. A Lorents–to byl prav! Ili nakaplivaetsya li agressivnaya energiya? (Lorenz Was Right! Or Does Aggressive Energy Accumulate?) / N.N. Kudryavtseva // Russian Journal of Genetics. – 2004. – V. 40, № 6. – P. 808 – 815.
  7. Kulaichev A.P. Metody i sredstva kompleksnogo analiza dannykh (Methods and tools for complex data analysis) / A.P. Kulaichev – Moscow: FORUM: INFA, 2006. – 512 P.
  8. Lorenz K. Agressiya (tak nazyvaemoe «zlo») (Aggression (the so–called "evil") / K. Lorenz. – St. Petersburg: Amfora, 2001. – 349 p.
  9. Mikroyaderny test na bukkal'nykh epiteliotsitakh cheloveka (Micronucleus test in the buccal epithelial cells of human) / V.V. Yurchenko // Poliorganny mikroyaderny test v ekologo–gigienicheskikh issledovaniyakh (Multiorgan micronucleus test in the ecological and hygienic research) / ed. Y.A. Rachmaninoff, L.P. Sychev. – Moscow: Genius, 2007. – 312 p
  10. Platonovа Z.N. Agressiya u detey i podrostkov (Aggression in children and adolescents) / Z.N. Platonov. – St. Petersburg: Rech, 2006. – 336 p.
  11. Chichinadze K.N. Agressivnoe povedenie, ego adaptatsionnaya funktsiya i mekhanizmy razvitiya psikhosomaticheskikh patologiy i bolezney adaptatsii (Aggressive behavior, its adaptive function and mechanisms of development of psychosomatic disorders and diseases of adaptation) / K.N. Chichinadze, L.F. Gachechiladze // Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology. – 2006 – V. 56, № 1. – P. 118–129
  12. Shcherbatykh Y.V. Kak ostavatsya molodym i zhit' dolgo (How to stay young and live longer) / Y.V. Shcherbatykh – Moscow: Eksmo, 2011. – 320 p.
  13. Sharma, R. Pre–cancerous (DNA and chromosomal) lesions in professional sports / R. Sharma, Shailey, G. Gandhi // Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics. – 2012. – V.8, № 4. – P. 578–585.


Abstract. The article studies the dependence of cytogenetic homeostasis in military hand-to-hand combat athletes on the results of contests and their aggressiveness level. The state of the athletes' genetic appara-tus was assessed by means of micronucleus test in buccal epithelium that is widely used for determining the influence of various factors on the genetic stability of the organism. Psychological testing of athletes was conducted using Spielberger State-Trait Anger Scale and U.P. Ilyin and P.A. Kovalev method for determining proneness to conflict and aggressiveness (positive and negative) as a personal trait. The influ-ence of the place in contest on the incidence of nuclear abnormalities in buccal mucosa cells of athletes has been demonstrated. The defeated athletes had a greater number of nuclear aberrations than the win-ners. What is more, the influence of contest results on the number of aberrant cells is more obvious in ath-letes with higher psychological indices of aggressiveness (negative aggression, proneness to conflict, ag-gression as a character trait).