Relative Age Effect in Young Swiss Alpine Skiers From 2004 to 2011

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

To verify whether relative age effects (RAEs) occur among young male and female Swiss Alpine skiers of different age groups and performance levels. In addition, the efficacy of normalizing performance in physical tests to height and body mass to attenuate RAEs eventually present was tested.

Methods:

The Swiss Ski Power Test consists of anthropometric measures and physical tests for coordination and speed, endurance, and strength and has been used since 2004 to evaluate 11- to 19-y-old Swiss competitive Alpine skiers. The authors analyzed the distribution of 6996 tests performed by 1438 male and 1031 female Alpine skiers between 2004 and 2011 according to the athletes’ respective relative age quartiles. Differences in anthropometric measures and performance in physical tests according to quartile were assessed, and the possibility of attenuating eventual RAEs on performance by normalization of results to height and body mass was tested.

Results:

RAEs were found among all female and male age groups, with no differences between age groups. While performance level did not affect RAE for male skiers, it influenced RAE among female skiers. RAEs also influenced results in all physical tests except upper-limb strength. Normalization of results to body mass attenuated most RAEs identified.

Conclusion:

Small RAEs are present among young Swiss competitive Alpine skiers and should be taken into account in training and selection settings to prevent the waste of possible future talents. When ranking junior athletes according to their performance in physical tests, normalization of results to body mass decreases the bias caused by RAEs.

The authors are with the Inst for Anatomy, University of Bern, Switzerland.

Address author correspondence to Tatiane Gorski at tatigorski@gmail.com.