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Athletic Performance Decline Over the Life Span: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Analyses of Elite and Masters Track-and-Field Data

Brandon Pfeifer, W. Bradley Nelson, and Robert D. Hyldahl

Purpose : Loss of muscle power has a significant impact on mobility in geriatric populations, so this study sought to determine the extent and time course of performance decline in power-centric events throughout the life span via retrospective analyses of masters and elite track-and-field data. Methods : Four track-and-field events were selected based on maximal power output: the 100-m dash, long jump, high jump, and triple jump. Elite and masters athlete data were gathered from the World Masters Outdoor Championships and the International Amateur Athletic Federation World Athletics Championships (17,945 individual results). Data were analyzed by fitting individual and group results to quadratic and linear models. Results : Average age of peak performance in all events was 27.8 (0.8) years for men and 28.3 (0.8) years for women. Athlete performance decline best matched a linear model for the 5 years following peak performance (mean R 2  = .68 [.20]) and for ages 35–60, but best matched a quadratic model for ages 60–90 and 35–90 (mean R 2  = .75 [.12]). The average rate of decline for the masters data ages 35–60 ranged from 0.55% per year for men’s 100-m dash to 1.04% per year for women’s long jump. A significant age × sex interaction existed between men and women, with men declining faster throughout life in all events except the 100-m dash. Conclusions : Performance decline begins in the early 30s and is linear through middle age. This pattern of decline provides a basis for further research on power-decline pathophysiology and preventive measures starting in the 30s.

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A Change-Point Method to Detect Meaningful Change in Return-to-Sport Progression in Athletes

Kate K. Yung, Ben Teune, Clare L. Ardern, Fabio R. Serpiello, and Sam Robertson

Purpose: To explore how the change-point method can be used to analyze complex longitudinal data and detect when meaningful changes (change points) have occurred during rehabilitation. Method: This design is a prospective single-case observational study of a football player in a professional club who sustained an acute lower-limb muscle injury during high-speed running in training. The rehabilitation program was entirely completed in the football club under the supervision of the club’s medical team. Four wellness metrics and 5 running-performance metrics were collected before the injury and until the player returned to play. Results: Data were collected over 130 days. In the univariate analysis, the change points for stress, sleep, mood, and soreness were located on days 30, 47, 50, and 50, respectively. The change points for total distance, acceleration, maximum speed, deceleration, and high-speed running were located on days 32, 34, 37, 41, and 41, respectively. The multivariate analysis resulted in a single change point for the wellness metrics and running-performance metrics, on days 50 and 67, respectively. Conclusions: The univariate approach provided information regarding the sequence and time point of the change points. The multivariate approach provided a common change point for multiple metrics, information that would benefit clinicians to have a broad overview of the changes in the rehabilitation process. Clinicians may consider the change-point method to integrate and visualize data from multiple sources to evaluate athletes’ progression along the return-to-sport continuum.

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Predicting Future Athletic Performance in Young Female Road Cyclists Based on Aerobic Fitness and Hematological Variables

Dariusz Sitkowski, Jadwiga Malczewska-Lenczowska, Ryszard Zdanowicz, Michał Starczewski, Andrzej Pokrywka, Piotr Żmijewski, and Raphael Faiss

Purpose: This study aimed to determine whether the initial levels of aerobic fitness and hematological variables in young female road cyclists are related to their athletic performance development during their careers. Methods: Results of graded exercise tests on a cycle ergometer and total hemoglobin mass (tHb-mass) measurements were analyzed in 34 female road cyclists (age 18.6 [1.9] y). Among them, 2 groups were distinguished based on their competitive performance (Union Cycliste Internationale world ranking) over the following 8 years. Areas under the curve in receiver-operating-characteristic curves were calculated as indicators of elite-performance prediction. Results: Initial graded exercise test variables (peak power, peak oxygen uptake, and power at 4 mmol/L blood lactate) were not significantly different in elite (n = 13) versus nonelite (n = 21) riders. In contrast, elite riders had higher tHb-mass expressed either in absolute measures (664 [75] vs 596 [59] g, P = .006) or normalized to body mass (11.2 [0.8] vs 10.3 [0.7] g/kg, P = .001) and fat-free mass (14.4 [0.9] vs 13.1 [0.9] g/kg, P < .001). Absolute and relative erythrocyte volumes were significantly higher in elite subjects (P ranged from < .001 to .006). Of all the variables analyzed, the relative tHb-mass had the highest predictive ability to reach the elite level (area under the curve ranged from .82 to .85). Conclusion: Measurement of tHb-mass can be a helpful tool in talent detection to identify young female road cyclists with the potential to reach the elite level in the future.

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Test–Retest Reliability and Usefulness of a Foot–Ankle Rebound-Jump Test for Measuring Foot–Ankle Reactive Strength in Athletes

Romain Tourillon, François Fourchet, Pascal Edouard, and Jean-Benoît Morin

Purpose: This study investigated the test–retest reliability and usefulness of the foot–ankle rebound-jump test (FARJT) for measuring foot–ankle reactive strength metrics in athletes. Methods: Thirty-six highly trained, healthy athletes (5 female; 21.5 [3.9] y; 1.80 [0.10] m; 72.7 [10.4] kg) performed 8 repeated bilateral vertical foot–ankle rebound jumps on 2 testing days. Testing days were 1 week apart, and these sessions were preceded by a familiarization session. Reactive strength metrics were calculated by dividing jump height (in meters) by contact time (in seconds) for the reactive strength index (RSI) and flight time (in seconds) by contact time (in seconds) for the reactive strength ratio (RSR). The mean of 4 jumps (excluding the first and last 2 jumps) on each testing session were considered for RSI and RSR reliability and usefulness analysis. Results: We found a high reliability of the FARJT for RSI (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] > .90 and coefficient of variation [CV] = 12%) and RSR (ICC ≥ .90 and CV = 8%). Regarding their usefulness, both RSI and RSR were rated as “marginal” in detecting the smallest worthwhile change (typical error > smallest worthwhile change) and “good” in detecting a moderate change in performance. Conclusions: The results showed that a FARJT is a highly reliable test for measuring foot–ankle reactive strength in athletes and useful for quantifying changes, for example, following a training block. However, its usefulness as an accurate daily or weekly monitoring tool in practice is questionable.

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Can We Just Play? Internal Validity of Assessing Physiological State With a Semistandardized Kicking Drill in Professional Australian Football

Adriano Arguedas-Soley, Tzlil Shushan, Andrew Murphy, Nicholas Poulos, Ric Lovell, and Dean Norris

Purpose: To examine associations between exercise heart rate (HRex) during a continuous-fixed submaximal fitness test (CF-SMFT) and an intermittent-variable protocol (semistandardized kicking drill [SSD]) in Australian Football athletes, controlling for external intensities, within-session scheduling, and environmental conditions. Methods: Forty-four professional male Australian Football athletes (22.8 [8.0] y) were monitored over 10 sessions involving a 3-minute CF-SMFT (12 km·h−1) as the first activity and a SSD administered 35.7 (8.0) minutes after the CF-SMFT. Initial heart rate and HRex were collected, with external intensities measured as average velocity (in meters per minute) and average acceleration–deceleration (in meters per second squared). Environmental conditions were sampled. A penalized hierarchical linear mixed model was tuned for a Bayesian information criterion minima using a 10-fold cross-validation, with out-of-sample prediction accuracy assessed via root-mean-squared error. Results: SSD average acceleration–deceleration, initial heart rate, temperature, and ground hardness were significant moderators in the tuned model. When model covariates were held constant, a 1%-point change in SSD HRex associated with a 0.4%-point change in CF-SMFT HRex (95% CI, 0.3–0.5). The tuned model predicted CF-SMFT HRex with an average root-mean-squared error of 2.64 (0.57) over the 10-fold cross-validation, with 74% and 86% of out-of-sample predictions falling within 2.7%-points and 3.7%-points, respectively, from observed values, representing the lower and upper limits for detecting meaningful changes in HRex according to the documented typical error. Conclusions: Our findings support the use of an SSD to monitor physiological state in Australian Football athletes, despite varied scheduling within session. Model predictions of CF-SMFT HRex from SSD HRex closely aligned with observed values, considering measurement imprecision.

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Introducing IJSPP’s First Reviewer Incentive: A Submission-Fee Waiver

Dionne A. Noordhof and Øyvind Sandbakk

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Volume 19 (2024): Issue 7 (Jul 2024)

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Essential Papers in Sports and Exercise Physiology

Jos J. de Koning and Carl Foster

Purpose: The purpose of this survey was to create a list of essential historical and contemporary readings for undergraduate and graduate students in the field of exercise physiology. Methods: Fifty-two exercise physiologists/sport scientists served as referees, and each nominated ∼25 papers for inclusion in the list. In total, 396 papers were nominated by the referees. This list was then sent back to the referees, with the instructions to nominate the “100 essential papers in sports and exercise physiology.” Results: The referees cast 4722 votes. The 100 papers with the highest number of votes received 51% (2406) of the total number of votes. A total of 37 papers in the list of “100 essential papers” were published >50 years ago, and 63 papers were published since 1973. Conclusions: This list of essential studies will provide a perspective on contemporary studies, the “giant’s shoulders” to enable young scholars to “see further” or to understand where they have “come from.” This compilation is also meant to impress on students that, given the (lack of) technology available in the past, some of the early science required enormous intuitive leaps on the part of historical scientists.

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“Falling Behind,” “Letting Go,” and Being “Outsprinted” as Distinct Features of Pacing in Distance Running

Carl Foster, Renato Barroso, Daniel Bok, Daniel Boullosa, Arturo Casado Alda, Cristina Cortis, Andrea Fusco, Brian Hanley, Philip Skiba, and Jos J. de Koning

Introduction: In distance running, pacing is characterized by changes in speed, leading to runners dropping off the leader’s pace until a few remain to contest victory with a final sprint. Pacing behavior has been well studied over the last 30 years, but much remains unknown. It might be related to finishing position, finishing time, and dependent on critical speed (CS), a surrogate of physiologic capacity. We hypothesized a relationship between CS and the distance at which runners “fell behind” and “let go” from the leader or were “outsprinted” as contributors to performance. Methods: 100-m split times were obtained for athletes in the men’s 10,000-m at the 2008 Olympics (N = 35). Split times were individually compared with the winner at the point of “falling behind” (successive split times progressively slower than the winner), “letting go” (large increase in time for distance compared with winner), or “outsprinted” (falling behind despite active acceleration) despite being with the leader with 400 m remaining. Results: Race times ranged between 26:55 and 29:23 (world record = 26:17). There were 3 groups who fell behind at ∼1000 (n = 11), ∼6000 (n = 16), and ∼9000 m (n = 2); let go at ∼4000 (n = 10), ∼7000 (n = 14), and ∼9500 m (n = 5); or were outkicked (n = 6). There was a moderate correlation between CS and finishing position (r = .82), individual mean pace (r = .79), “fell behind” distance (r = .77), and “let go” distance (r = .79). D′ balance was correlated with performance in the last 400 m (r = .87). Conclusions: Athletes displayed distinct patterns of falling behind and letting go. CS serves as a moderate predictor of performance and final placing. Final placing during the sprint is related to preservation of D′ balance.

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Football Movement Profile–Based Creatine-Kinase Prediction Performs Similarly to Global Positioning System–Derived Machine Learning Models in National-Team Soccer Players

Gabor Schuth, György Szigeti, Gergely Dobreff, Alija Pašić, Tim Gabbett, Adam Szilas, and Gabor Pavlik

Purpose: The relationship between external load and creatine-kinase (CK) response at the team/position or individual level using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) has been studied. This study aimed to compare GPS-derived and Football Movement Profile (FMP) –derived CK-prediction models for national-team soccer players. The second aim was to compare the performance of general and individualized CK prediction models. Methods: Four hundred forty-four national-team soccer players (under 15 [U15] to senior) were monitored during training sessions and matches using GPS. CK was measured every morning from whole blood. The players had 19.3 (18.1) individual GPS-CK pairs, resulting in a total of 8570 data points. Machine learning models were built using (1) GPS-derived or (2) FMP-based parameters or (3) the combination of the 2 to predict the following days’ CK value. The performance of general and individual-specific prediction models was compared. The performance of the models was described by R 2 and the root-mean-square error (RMSE, in units per liter for CK values). Results: The FMP model (R 2 = .60, RMSE = 144.6 U/L) performed similarly to the GPS-based model (R 2 = .62, RMSE = 141.2 U/L) and the combination of the 2 (R 2 = .62, RMSE = 140.3 U/L). The prediction power of the general model was better on average (R 2 = .57 vs R 2 = .37) and for 73% of the players than the individualized model. Conclusions: The results suggest that FMP-based CK-prediction models perform similarly to those based on GPS-derived metrics. General machine learning models’ prediction power was higher than those of the individual-specific models. These findings can be used to monitor postmatch recovery strategies and to optimize weekly training periodization.