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Handedness, Bilateral, and Interdigit Strength Asymmetries in Male Climbers

Cameron Hartley, Nicola Taylor, Joel Chidley, Jiří Baláš, and Dave Giles

Purpose: To determine whether there are bilateral and interdigit differences in the maximal force production of experienced climbers and whether these differences are mediated by ability level or preferred style of climbing. Methods: Thirty-six male climbers (age 30 [9.4] y) took part in a single-session trial to test their maximal force production on both hands. The tests included a one-arm maximal isometric finger flexor strength test (MIFS) and a one-arm individual MIFS. Bilateral differences were analyzed by strongest hand (defined as the hand that produced the highest MIFS value) and dominance (defined as the writing hand). Results: A pairwise t test found that MIFS was significantly greater for the strongest hand (mean difference = 4.1%, 95% CI, −0.052 to 0.029, P < .001), with handedness explaining 89% of the variation. A 2-way mixed-model analysis of variance determined that there were no interactions between preferred style (bouldering or sport climbing) and MIFS or between ability level (advanced or elite) and MIFS. Conclusions: Climbers have significant finger flexor strength bilateral asymmetries between their strongest and weakest hand. Moreover, when dominance is controlled, this difference in strength is present, with the dominant hand producing more force. Neither preferred style of climbing nor the ability level of the climbers could explain these asymmetries. As such, practitioners should consider regularly monitoring unilateral strength, aiming to minimize the likelihood of large bilateral asymmetry occurring.

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Changes in the Force–Velocity Relationship of Knee Muscles After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Using the Isokinetic 2-Point Model

Joffrey Drigny, Anaelle Calmès, Emmanuel Reboursière, Christophe Hulet, and Antoine Gauthier

Purpose: After anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACL-R), knee muscle strength symmetry is used as part of the return-to-sport criteria. However, little is known about the changes in the force–velocity (F–V) relationship, which could affect athletic performance. This study investigated the F–V relationship of knee muscles at 4 and 8 months after ACL-R, using the 2-point method tested by isokinetic dynamometry. Methods: A total of 103 physically trained individuals (24.6 [9.3] y, 59.2% male) who underwent primary ACL-R were included. Demographic information and surgery characteristics were collected at 6 weeks postoperatively. Isokinetic knee flexors’ and extensors’ peak torques were measured at 60° and 240° per second in the concentric mode at 4 and 8 months postoperative. Peak torques and angular velocities were converted to force and linear velocity for calculating maximum isometric force (F0) and the slope of the regression line (F–V slope). Results: At 4 and 8 months postoperative, F0 was significantly lower and F–V slope was significantly less steep (less negative) on the operated leg compared with the nonoperated leg for knee extensors (P < .001) and flexors (P < .001–.002). The limb symmetry index calculated using F0 was lower than the limb symmetry indexes assessed at 60° and 240° per second, especially for knee flexors (P < .001). The use of patellar tendon grafts was associated with lower F0 and a less steep F–V slope compared with hamstring tendon grafts (P < .010). Conclusion: The isokinetic 2-point model assessing the F–V relationship provides additional and relevant insight for evaluating knee muscle strength after ACL-R.

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Interference Effects of Different Resistance-Training Protocols on Rowing Ergometer Performance: A Study on Semiprofessional Rowers

Danica Janicijevic, Mauricio Elías Leandro Quidel-Catrilelbún, Andrés Baena-Raya, and Amador García-Ramos

Purpose: To evaluate the interference effects of various resistance-training (RT) protocols on rowing ergometer performance. Methods: Fourteen semiprofessional male rowers randomly completed 5 protocols in separate sessions: (1) control—no RT session was performed, (2) upper-body high-fatigue—4 sets to failure during the bench pull exercise, (3) upper-body low-fatigue—4 sets of 6 repetitions during the bench pull exercise, (4) lower-body high-fatigue—4 sets to failure during the leg-press exercise, and (5) lower-body low-fatigue—4 sets of 6 repetitions during the leg-press exercise. All sets were performed against the 12-repetition-maximum load with 2 minutes of interset rest. Following the completion of the protocols, subjects performed an all-out 1000-m rowing ergometer test. Results: Compared with the control condition, rowing ergometer performance was not significantly affected after the low-fatigue RT protocols (upper body: P ≥ .487; Δ = 0.0%–0.2%; lower body: P ≥ .200; Δ = −0.2%–0.5%), while it significantly declined following high-fatigue RT protocols (upper body: P ≤ .001; Δ = 1.0%–2.0%; lower body: P ≤ .002; Δ = 2.1%–2.5%). The average heart rate was significantly lower for the control condition compared with all RT protocols (P ≤ .043; Δ = 1.0%–1.5%). Conclusions: To minimize interference on rowing performance, coaches should prioritize the level of effort in RT protocols over specific exercises, specifically avoiding high-fatigue protocols that lead to failure before rowing practice.

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On-Field Methodological Approach to Monitor the Menstrual Cycle and Hormonal Phases in Elite Female Athletes

Marine Dupuit, Alice Meignié, Tom Chassard, Ludivine Blanquet, Julien LeHeran, Thomas Delaunay, Elise Bernardeau, Jean-François Toussaint, Martine Duclos, and Juliana Antero

Objectives: Currently, there are no guidelines for implementing the monitoring of menstrual status, including the natural menstrual cycle (NC) or oral contraception (OC), in a sport setting. We aimed to provide a feasible, on-field methodological approach for monitoring NC and OC in female athletes. Methods: We developed a smartphone app with daily questionnaires to monitor both NC and OC phases in 19 elite female soccer players (23.7 [4.4] y) over 7 months. Adherence and compliance were evaluated. The NC and OC phases were based on calendar data to establish an individual menstrual profile for each athlete. Results: The initial questionnaire revealed that the vast majority of female players (80%) were interested in monitoring their menstrual status. The online monitoring yielded high athlete adherence (87.0% [14.2%]) with a slight decrease over the winter break and at the end of the championship, which necessitated adaptations to promote compliance. Monitoring identified the specific menstrual pattern of each athlete and highlighted large interindividual variability. Conclusion: This study assesses, for the first time, the interest of female players in monitoring their menstrual status. It provides a new methodological approach, as well as guidelines for optimizing on-field monitoring. It also anticipates some obstacles sport staff may encounter when trying to implement such follow-up. It is essential to better understand the menstrual profile of athletes and determine its potential impacts on well-being and performance.

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Volume 18 (2023): Issue 9 (Sep 2023): Special Issue: Rugby World Cup 2023—Physiology and Performance Research

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Inconsistent Effect of Psychometric-Scale Familiarization on the Relationship Between Ratings of Perceived Exertion and External Load Measures in Elite Youth Soccer Players

Efthymios Kyprianou, Lorenzo Lolli, Matthew Weston, and Warren Gregson

Objectives: To examine the moderating effect of familiarization on the relationship between external load and ratings of perceived exertion (RPEs) in elite youth soccer players. Methods: Thirty-five elite male youth soccer players were monitored over a 31-week period. Players had no previous experience using the centiMax scale (arbitrary units [AU]). The final sample included familiarized (blackness test; n = 20) and nonfamiliarized players (n = 15) with the Borg centiMax scale. Players recorded a global RPE and differential RPEs (dRPE) for breathlessness (RPE-B) and leg-muscle exertion (RPE-L) 15 to 30 minutes following training sessions and competitive matches. Separate multivariable-adjusted random-effects generalized additive models with restricted maximum likelihood quantified familiarization versus no-familiarization differences in actual perceived exertion score (in AU) by number of accelerations, decelerations, and high-speed running distance (in meters) as predictor variables, respectively. Results: Players improved their blackness test score from 39% to 78%. For explorations by number of accelerations, familiarization effects were not practically relevant for the RPE and RPE-B variables. The width and sign of the effects for the RPE-L variable at 30 efforts of 10 AU (95% CI, 4–16 AU) suggested that scores were lower for players who underwent familiarization versus players who did not. Familiarization effects were not practically relevant for any RPE variable irrespective of the number of deceleration efforts and high-speed running distance covered. Conclusion: Improved performance on the blackness test did not have a moderating effect on the relationship between proxy measures of external load and RPEs.

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Assessing the Use of Heart-Rate Monitoring for Competitive Swimmers

Hugh Sixsmith, Stephen Crowcroft, and Katie Slattery

Purpose: Quantifying training intensity provides a comprehensive understanding of the training stimulus. Recent technological advances may have improved the feasibility of using heart-rate (HR) monitoring in swimming. However, the implementation of HR monitoring is yet to be assessed longitudinally in the daily training environment of swimmers. This study aimed to assess the implementation of HR by comparing the training-intensity distribution from an external measure, planned volume at set intensities (PVSI), with the internal training-intensity distribution measured using time in HR zones. Methods: Using a longitudinal observational design, 10 competitive swimmers (8 male and 2 female, age: 22.0 [2.3] y, Fédération Internationale de Natation point score: 842.9 [58.5], mean [SD]) were monitored daily for 6 months. Each session, HR data, and coached-planned and athlete-reported session rating of perceived exertion (Modified Category Ratio 10 scale) were recorded. Based on previously determined training zones from an incremental step test, PVSI was calculated using the planned distance and planned intensity of each swim bout. Training-intensity distributions were analyzed using a linear mixed model (lme4). Results: The model revealed a small to moderate relationship between PVSI and time in HR zone, based on the Nakagawa R-squared value (range .14–.42). Conclusions: Training-intensity distribution differed between the internal measure (ie, HR) and the external measure of intensity (ie, PVSI). This demonstrates that internal and planned external measures of intensity cannot be used interchangeably to monitor training. Further research should explore how to best integrate these measures to better understand training in swimming.

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Hemoglobin Mass and Blood Volume in Swimming: A Comparison Between Highly Trained, Elite, and World-Class Swimmers

Iñigo Mujika, Grégoire P. Millet, Irina Zelenkova, and Nicolas Bourdillon

Purpose: Total hemoglobin mass (tHbmass) and blood volume (BV) are important determinants of maximal oxygen uptake and endurance capacity. Higher-caliber endurance athletes usually possess higher tHbmass and BV values. This study aimed to compare tHbmass and BV among swimmers of diverse competitive calibers and distances. Methods: Thirty swimmers (16 female and 14 male) participated in the study: 3 were tier 5, world class (869 [59] FINA points); 15 were tier 4, elite/international (853 [38] points); and 12 were tier 3, highly trained/national (808 [35] points). They specialized in competition distances ranging from 200 m to open-water 10 km. Between February 2019 and February 2020, all swimmers had their tHbmass and BV measured by carbon monoxide rebreathing 1 to 6 times and participated in multiple competitions and race events. Results: Relative tHbmass and BV were not different (P > .05) between tiers among women or among men (pooled tHbmass values 14.5 [0.5], 12.5 [1.5], 12.6 [2.3] g/kg for tier 5, tier 4, and tier 3, respectively). No differences were observed in relative tHbmass (P = .215) and BV (P = .458) between pool and open-water swimmers or between 200-, 400-, and 1500-m specialists (P > .05). No significant correlations were found between the highest measured absolute or relative tHbmass and BV and the highest FINA points scored over the follow-up period (R = −.42–.17, P = .256–.833), irrespective of competition distance. Conclusion: tHbmass and BV values did not differ between swimmers of different calibers or among competition distances. Furthermore, these values did not correlate with FINA points, either in males or in females. The present results indicate that hematological characteristics may have a lesser impact on swimming performance than on land-based endurance sports.

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Examining the Talent Selection Determinants of Ultimate Frisbee Players Selected Into a National Youth Team

Jonathan D. Connor, Daniel Berkelmans, and Kenji Doma

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to examine whether various athletic performances, anthropometric measures, and playing experience differentiate selected and nonselected ultimate Frisbee players trialing to compete in the world championship. Methods: Forty-three Australian male ultimate Frisbee players (age = 21.2 [1.2] y; height = 1.7 [6.8] m; body mass = 69.7 [8.2] kg; playing experience = 3.5 [1.5] y) participated in a 30-m sprint test, single-leg run-up jump approach (both left [JumpLL], and right leg [JumpRL]) and a stationary bilateral vertical jump (JumpBIL), and change-of-direction speed test. Following a selection camp, players were subdivided according to their selection or nonselection into the team. Results: A multivariate analysis of variance revealed that height, 10-m sprint time, acceleration, JumpLL, JumpRL, and JumpBIL were significantly greater for selected players than nonselected players (P < .05). Area under the curve (AUC) was greatest for JumpRL (AUC = 79%; optimal cutoff value of 37.5 cm, sensitivity and specificity values of 77% and 71%, respectively), JumpLL (AUC = 74%; optimal cutoff 38.5 cm, sensitivity and specificity values 77% and 77%, respectively), and JumpBIL (AUC = 78%; optimal cutoff value of 40.5 cm, sensitivity and specificity values 71% and 79%, respectively). The largest AUC (AUC = 81%; 95% CI 0.66–0.97; P = .001) was found when combining the explanatory variables that demonstrated moderate to large effect sizes (ie, height, playing experience, 10-m sprint, acceleration, JumpLL, JumpRL, and JumpBIL), with sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 71%. Conclusion: These athletic performance and anthropometric characteristics differentiating selected and nonselected players may help inform targeted training and player-development strategies.

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What Does It Take to Become a Professional Cyclist? A Laboratory-Based Longitudinal Analysis in Competitive Young Riders

Pedro L. Valenzuela, Lidia B. Alejo, Alejandro Lucia, and David Barranco-Gil

Purpose: Laboratory-based indicators are commonly used for performance assessment in young cyclists. However, evidence supporting the use of these indicators mostly comes from cross-sectional research, and their validity as predictors of potential future performance remains unclear. We aimed to assess the role of laboratory variables for predicting transition from U23 (under 23 y) to professional category in young cyclists. Methods: Sixty-five U23 male road cyclists (19.6 [1.5] y) were studied. Endurance (maximal graded test and simulated 8-min time trial [TT]), muscle strength/power (squat, lunge, and hip thrust), and body composition (assessed with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) indicators were determined. Participants were subsequently followed and categorized attending to whether they had transitioned (“Pro”) or not (“Non-Pro”) to the professional category during the study period. Results: The median follow-up period was 3 years. Pro cyclists (n = 16) showed significantly higher values than Non-Pro riders (n = 49) for ventilatory thresholds, peak power output, peak oxygen uptake, and TT performance (all P < .05, effect size > 0.69) and lower levels of fat mass and bone mineral content/density (P < .05, effect size > 0.63). However, no significant differences were found for muscle strength/power indicators (P > .05, effect size < 49). The most accurate individual predictor was TT performance (overall predictive value = 76% for a cutoff value of 5.6 W·kg−1). However, some variables that did not reach statistical significance in univariate analyses contributed significantly to a multivariate model (R 2 = .79, overall predictive value = 94%). Conclusions: Although different “classic” laboratory-based endurance indicators can predict the potential of reaching the professional category in U23 cyclists, a practical indicator such as 8-minute TT performance showed the highest prediction accuracy.