Phases of the Swim-start in Paralympic Swimmers Are Influenced by Severity and Type of Disability

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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  • 1 Australian Institute of Sport
  • 2 University of the Sunshine Coast
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Disabilities in Paralympic swimming could impact a swimmer’s ability to execute an effective swim-start. We examined how swim-start performance differed between severity and type of physical disability. Swim-starts were measured in 55 elite Paralympic swimmers from eight different Paralympic classes; S14, S13, S10-S6, S3 grouped as no- (classes S13 & S14), low- (S9 & S10), mid- (S7 & S8) or high- (≤ S6) severity of physical disability and also by type of physical disability (upper, lower, and palsy) to provide meaningful comparisons. The swimmer’s competitive level was determined by the international point score (IPS). Swimmers with no physical disability were significantly faster in most swim-start phases compared with those with physical disabilities, as were swimmers with low-severity disabilities compared with the mid- and high-severity groups. Block velocity was highly negatively correlated (r = –0.57 to –0.86) with 15-m swimming time for all groups except high-severity disabilities. Free-swim velocity is a priority area for improving swim-starts for swimmers regardless of disability, given large correlations between this measure and IPS. Swimmers with lower body or high-severity disabilities spent a smaller percentage of time overall in the underwater phase. Assessment of four specific phases of the swim-start highlight distinctive priorities for coaches working with Paralympic swimmers in an applied biomechanical manner.

Andrew A. Dingley is with Performance Research, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra ACT, Australia. Andrew Dingley and Brendan Burkett are with the University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs QLD, Australia. David B. Pyne is with Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra ACT, Australia. Address author correspondence to Andrew A. Dingley.