Effect of Cold on Proprioception and Cognitive Function in Elite Alpine Skiers

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

To determine the effect of cold ambient conditions on proprioception and cognitive function in elite alpine skiers.

Methods:

22 high-level alpine skiers and 14 control participants performed a proprioceptive-acuity (active movement-extent discrimination) and a cognitive (planning task) test in cold (8°C) and temperate (24°C) ambient conditions.

Results:

All participants displayed an increase in thermal discomfort and the amount of negative affects in the cold environment (all P < .05). Average proprioceptive acuity was significantly better in the elite skiers (0.46° ± 0.12°) than in the control group (0.55° ± 0.12°) (P < .05) and was not affected by cold ambient conditions, except for a shift in the pattern of error (over- vs underestimation, P < .05). Cognitive performance was similar between elite skiers and control participants in temperate environments but decreased in the cold in the control group only (P < .05) becoming lower than in elite skiers (P < .05).

Conclusion:

Elite alpine skiers showed a significantly better proprioceptive acuity than a control population and were able to maintain their performance during a cognitive task in a cold environment.

Racinais and Whiteley are with Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar. Gaoua is with School of Applied Science, London South Bank University, London, UK. Mtibaa and Hautier are with the Center of Research and Innovation on Sport, University of Lyon 1, Villeurbanne, France. Alhammoud is with the French Ski Federation, Annecy, France.

Address author correspondence to Sebastien Racinais at sebastien. racinais@aspetar.com.