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Darda Sales and Laura Misener

This study examined para swimmers’ athlete development experiences from the perspectives and reflections of athletes, and parents of athletes, with a focus on the constraints and challenges experienced. Guided by interpretive phenomenological analysis, 12 participants engaged in the interview process (seven parents and five athletes). Five themes were identified: fundamental skill development, personal connection, coaching, classification, and connecting with others “like me.” Through a discussion of the differences in development experiences between the participants in this study and the current literature on athlete development, the authors highlight areas of concern in applying a non-para-specific athlete development model to para swimmers. This study identifies several areas of consideration in the future design of a para athlete development framework or model.

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Scott McLean, Hugo A. Kerhervé, Nicholas Stevens, and Paul M. Salmon

Purpose: The broad aim of sport-science research is to enhance the performance of coaches and athletes. Despite decades of such research, it is well documented that sport-science research lacks empirical evidence, and critics have questioned its scientific methods. Moreover, many have pointed to a research–practice gap, whereby the work undertaken by researchers is not readily applied by practitioners. The aim of this study was to use a systems thinking analysis method, causal loop diagrams, to understand the systemic issues that interact to influence the quality of sport-science research. Methods: A group model-building process was utilized to develop the causal loop diagram based on data obtained from relevant peer-reviewed literature and subject-matter experts. Results: The findings demonstrate the panoply of systemic influences associated with sport-science research, including the existence of silos, a focus on quantitative research, archaic practices, and an academic system that is incongruous with what it actually purports to achieve. Conclusions: The emergent outcome of the interacting components is the creation of an underperforming sport-science research system, as indicated by a lack of ecological validity, translation to practice, and, ultimately, a research–practice gap.

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Mark Kenneally, Arturo Casado, Josu Gomez-Ezeiza, and Jordan Santos-Concejero

Purpose: Optimal training for endurance performance remains a debated topic. In this case study, the training of a world-class middle-/long-distance runner over a year’s duration is presented. Methods: The training is analyzed via 2 methods to define training intensity distribution (TID) (1) by physiological zones and (2) by zones based on race pace. TID was analyzed over the full season, but also over the final 6, 12, and 26 weeks to allow for consideration of periodization/phases of season. The results of both methods are compared. Other training data measured include volume and number of sessions. Results: The average weekly volume for the athlete was 145.8 (24.8) km·wk−1. TID by physiological analysis was polarized for the last 6 weeks of the season but was pyramidal when analyzed over the final 12, 26, and 52 weeks of the season. TID by race-pace analysis was pyramidal across all time points. The athlete finished 12th in the final of the World Championship 5000-m and made the semifinal of the 1500-m. He was ranked in the top 16 in the world for 1500, 5000, and 10,000 m. Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate a potential flaw with recent work suggesting polarized training as the most effective means to improve endurance performance. Here, different analysis methods produced 2 different types of TID. A polarized distribution was only seen when analyzed by physiological approach, and only during the last 6 weeks of a 52-week season. Longer-term prospective studies relating performance and physiological changes are suggested.

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Francesco Campa, Matteo Levi Micheli, Matilde Pompignoli, Roberto Cannataro, Massimo Gulisano, Stefania Toselli, Gianpiero Greco, and Giuseppe Coratella

Purpose: To examine whether menstrual cycle affects body composition and bioimpedance vector analysis (BIVA) patterns, jumping and sprinting ability, and flexibility in elite soccer players. Methods: A total of 20 elite female soccer players (age: 23.8 [3.4] y, height: 1.63 [0.04] m, body mass: 61.4 [5.9] kg, and body mass index: 22.5 [2.4] kg/m2) were monitored during the early follicular and ovulatory phase across 2 consecutive menstrual cycles. Bioimpedance analysis was performed using foot-to-hand technology, and total body water and fat mass were determined by specific equations developed for athletes. Bioelectrical resistance and reactance were adjusted according to the BIVA procedures and plotted as a vector within the resistance–reactance graph. In addition, countermovement jump, 20-m sprint, and sit and reach were assessed. Results: A time effect (P < .05) was found for body mass, total body water, bioelectrical resistance and reactance, and flexibility. Specifically, body mass increased (P = .021) along with a gain in total body water (P = .001) from the ovulatory to the early follicular phase, while it decreased from the early follicular to the ovulatory phase during the second menstrual cycle. The BIVA vector shortened during the early follicular phases (P < .001). No change in jumping and sprinting capacity was observed (P > .05). Flexibility was impaired during the early follicular phases (P < .05). Conclusions: Specific bioelectrical impedance analysis and BIVA procedures are able to detect menstrual cycle–induced changes in body composition in elite soccer players. The early follicular phase resulted in fluid accumulations and BIVA vector shortening. In addition, while menstrual cycle did not affect performance, a fluctuation in flexibility was observed.

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Jacqueline Martins Patatas, Jens De Rycke, Veerle De Bosscher, and Rafael Lima Kons

The literature suggests that the current athlete development models do not reflect the multifaceted developmental pathways in Paralympic sport. This study aimed to analyze how parasport athletes progress through developmental phases of an athletic career pathway by comparing differences in their trajectories based on the nature of the impairment (acquired or congenital), age, and sex. A total of 345 para-athletes representing 15 sports completed an online survey. Results showed that the developmental phases for athletes with acquired impairment are of shorter duration, taking 4.5 years to progress from the attraction to the elite phase, while athletes with congenital impairment take 6 years. Athletes with congenital impairment start in parasport approximately 8 years younger and win medals in international competitions 7 years earlier than athletes with acquired impairment. Insights gathered in this study have the potential to enhance further thinking toward the genesis of specific models of para-athlete development.

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Colin Clancy, Nigel Gleeson, and Tom Mercer

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess neuromuscular performance capabilities over an in-season mesocycle in early-career professional soccer players and examine the relationship with training workload. Methods: Neuromuscular performance capabilities (isometric knee extensor: peak force, rate of force development, and peak twitch force) of 12 professional soccer players were assessed weekly over a 6-week period. Training and match workload were also recorded over the same period for each player (high-intensity running distance). Changes in neuromuscular performance and workload variables were analyzed. Results: There was evidence of fluctuations in neuromuscular performance capability over the mesocycle that reached statistical (P < .05) and practical (13.3% [peak-to-peak]) significance alongside interweek heterogeneity in training and match workload (∼17.5% [coefficient of variation], P < .05). Congruence among fluctuating patterns of intramesocycle training load and concomitant neuromuscular performance responses was noted over time for acute training load and acute:chronic workload ratio with peak force and rate of force development. Conclusion: Neuromuscular performance capabilities fluctuate over an in-season mesocycle and are influenced by high-intensity running workload, emphasizing the need for acute monitoring in elite soccer players.

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Noah M.A. d’Unienville, Maximillian J. Nelson, Clint R. Bellenger, Henry T. Blake, and Jonathan D. Buckley

Purpose: To prescribe training loads to improve performance, one must know how an athlete is responding to loading. The maximal rate of heart-rate increase (rHRI) during the transition from rest to exercise is linearly related to changes in endurance exercise performance and can be used to infer how athletes are responding to changes in training load. Relationships between rHRI and anaerobic exercise performance have not been evaluated. The objective of this study was to evaluate relationships between rHRI and anaerobic exercise performance. Methods: Eighteen recreational strength and power athletes (13 male and 5 female) were tested on a cycle ergometer for rHRI, 6-second peak power output, anaerobic capacity (30-s average power), and blood lactate concentration prior to (PRE), and 1 (POST1) and 3 (POST3) hours after fatiguing high-intensity interval cycling. Results: Compared with PRE, rHRI was slower at POST1 (effect size [ES] = −0.38, P = .045) but not POST3 (ES = −0.36, P = .11). PPO was not changed at POST1 (ES = −0.12, P = .19) but reduced at POST3 (ES = −0.52, P = .01). Anaerobic capacity was reduced at POST1 (ES = −1.24, P < .001) and POST3 (ES = −0.83, P < .001), and blood lactate concentration was increased at POST1 (ES = 1.73, P < .001) but not at POST3 (ES = 0.75, P = .11). rHRI was positively related to PPO (B = 0.19, P = .03) and anaerobic capacity (B = 0.14, P = .005) and inversely related to blood lactate concentration (B = −0.22, P = .04). Conclusions: rHRI is linearly related to acute changes in anaerobic exercise performance and may indicate how athletes are responding to training to guide the application of training loads.

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Thomas W. Jones, Andrew D. Govus, Alfred Buskqvist, Erik P. Andersson, and Kerry McGawley

Purpose: To provide a descriptive analysis of the warm-up (WU) strategies employed by cross-country skiers prior to distance and sprint competitions at a national championship and to compare the skiers’ planned and executed WUs prior to the respective competitions. Methods: Twenty-one national- and international-level skiers (11 women and 10 men) submitted WU plans prior to the distance and sprint competitions, and after the competitions, reported any deviations from the plans. Skiers used personal monitors to record heart rate (HR) during WU, races, and cooldown. Quantitative statistical analyses were conducted on WU durations, durations in HR-derived intensity zones, and WU loads. Qualitative analyses were conducted on skiers’ WU plans and their reasons for deviating from the plans. Results: Skiers’ planned WUs were similar in content and planned time in HR-derived intensity zones for both the distance and sprint competitions. However, 45% of the women and 20% of the men reported that their WU was not carried out as planned, with reasons detailed as being due to incorrect intensities and running out of time. WU activities including skiing across variable terrain, muscle-potentiating exercises, and heat-maintenance strategies were missing from the skiers’ planned routines. Conclusions: Skiers favored a long, traditional WU approach for both the sprint and distance events, performing less high-intensity and more moderate-intensity exercise during their WUs than planned. In addition, elements likely relevant to successful performance in cross-country skiing were missing from WU plans.

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Jerome Koral, Marie Fanget, Laurianne Imbert, Thibault Besson, Djahid Kennouche, Audrey Parent, Clément Foschia, Jérémy Rossi, and Guillaume Y. Millet

Purpose: Fatigue has previously been investigated in trail running by comparing maximal isometric force before and after the race. Isometric contractions may not entirely reflect fatigue-induced changes, and therefore dynamic evaluation is warranted. The aim of the present study was to compare the magnitude of the decrement of maximal isometric force versus maximal power, force, and velocity after trail running races ranging from 40 to 170 km. Methods: Nineteen trail runners completed races shorter than 60 km, and 21 runners completed races longer than 100 km. Isometric maximal voluntary contractions (IMVCs) of knee extensors and plantar flexors and maximal 7-second sprints on a cycle ergometer were performed before and after the event. Results: Maximal power output (P max; −14% [11%], P < .001), theoretical maximum force (F 0; −11% [14%], P < .001), and theoretical maximum velocity (−3% [8%], P = .037) decreased significantly after both races. All dynamic parameters but theoretical maximum velocity decreased more after races longer than 100 km than races shorter than 60 km (P < .05). Although the changes in IMVCs were significantly correlated (P < .05) with the changes in F 0 and P max, reductions in IMVCs for knee extensors (−29% [16%], P < .001) and plantar flexors (−26% [13%], P < .001) were larger (P < .001) than the reduction in P max and F 0. Conclusions: After a trail running race, reductions in isometric versus dynamic forces were correlated, yet they are not interchangeable because the losses in isometric force were 2 to 3 times greater than the reductions in P max and F 0. This study also shows that the effect of race distance on fatigue measured in isometric mode is true when measured in dynamic mode.

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Rodrigo Zacca, Bruno Mezêncio, Flávio A. de Souza Castro, Fábio Y. Nakamura, David B. Pyne, João Paulo Vilas-Boas, and Ricardo J. Fernandes

Aim: The authors investigated how the Arena Powerskin R-EVO Closed Back swimsuit and Arena Carbon Triwetsuit (full-sleeve wetsuit), both approved by the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) regulations, affect biomechanics and energetics of 3 elite female open water (OW) swimmers at maximal and 4 submaximal swimming intensities. Methods: Three elite female OW swimmers (OW1 = 24 y, 1.64 m, 60 kg; OW2 = 23 y, 1.69 m, 65 kg; OW3 = 27 y, 1.63 m, 64.5 kg) were tested 1 week prior to a FINA/CNSG (China National Sports Group) Marathon Swim World Series event and 40 days before the 18th FINA World Championships 2019. Each OW swimmer completed 2 identical testing sessions, one with a swimsuit and other with a wetsuit, involving shoulder flexion power output assessed from medicine-ball throw, maximal performance and drag coefficient assessment, and an incremental intermittent swim test at 4 different relative intensities. Results: Estimated peak oxygen uptake was 4.4 L·min−1 for OW1, 5.6 L·min−1 for OW2, and 5.0 L·min−1 for OW3. Despite a distinct behavior observed on index of coordination for OW3, a null index of synchronization, increased stroke rate (mean difference = 2%–8%), reduced drag factor (minimum = −14%; maximum = −30%), lower energy cost (mean difference = −2% to −6%), and faster performance (mean difference = 2% to 3%) were observed with the wetsuit compared with swimsuit for all elite OW swimmers. Conclusion: The wetsuit enhances submaximal swimming performance, and this increase is dependent on the OW swimmer’s characteristics. The higher stroke rate and lower stroke length detected with wetsuit could be related to movement constraints imposed by the suit.