Purpose: To investigate variability, predictability, and smallest worthwhile performance enhancement in elite biathlon sprint events. In addition, the effects of race factors on performance were assessed. Methods: Data from 2005 to 2015 including >10,000 and >1000 observations for each sex for all athletes and annual top-10 athletes, respectively, were included. Generalized linear mixed models were constructed based on total race time, skiing time, shooting time, and proportions of targets hit. Within-athlete race-to-race variability was expressed as coefficient of variation of performance times and standard deviation (SD) in proportion units (%) of targets hit. The models were adjusted for random and fixed effects of subject identity, season, event identity, and race factors. Results: The within-athlete variability was independent of sex and performance standard of athletes: 2.5–3.2% for total race time, 1.5–1.8% for skiing time, and 11–15% for shooting times. The SD of the proportion of hits was ∼10% in both shootings combined (meaning ±1 hit in 10 shots). The predictability in total race time was very high to extremely high for all athletes (ICC .78–.84) but trivial for top-10 athletes (ICC .05). Race times during World Championships and Olympics were ∼2–3% faster than in World Cups. Moreover, race time increased by ∼2% per 1000 m of altitude, by ∼5% per 1% of gradient, by 1–2% per 1 m/s of wind speed, and by ∼2–4% on soft vs hard tracks. Conclusions: Researchers and practitioners should focus on strategies that improve biathletes’ performance by at least 0.8–0.9%, corresponding to the smallest worthwhile enhancement (0.3 × within-athlete variability).
Øyvind Skattebo and Thomas Losnegard
Karin Lobenius-Palmér, Birgitta Sjöqvist, Anita Hurtig-Wennlöf, and Lars-Olov Lundqvist
This study compared accelerometer-assessed habitual physical activity (PA), sedentary time, and meeting PA recommendations among 102 youth with disabilities (7–20 years) in four subgroups—physical/visual impairments, intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, and hearing impairment—and 800 youth with typical development (8–16 years). Low proportions of youth with disabilities met PA recommendations, and they generally were less physically active and more sedentary than youth with typical development. The hearing impairment and autism spectrum disorder groups were the most and least physically active, respectively. Older age and to some extent female sex were related to less PA and more sedentary time. Considering the suboptimal levels of PA in youth with disabilities, effective interventions directed at factors associated with PA among them are needed.
Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos, Viviane Grassmann, Krystn Orr, Amy C. McPherson, Guy E. Faulkner, and F. Virginia Wright
The objective of this study was to comprehensively evaluate inclusive out-of-school time physical activity programs for children/youth with physical disabilities. A search of the published literature was conducted and augmented by international expertise. A quality appraisal was conducted; only studies with quality ratings ≥60% informed our best practice recommendations. Seventeen studies were included using qualitative (n = 9), quantitative (n = 5), or mixed (n = 3) designs. Programs had a diversity of age groups, group sizes, and durations. Most programs were recreational level, involving both genders. Rehabilitation staff were the most common leaders. Outcomes focused on social skills/relationships, physical skill development, and psychological well-being, with overall positive effects shown in these areas. The best practice recommendations are consistent with an abilities-based approach emphasizing common group goals and interests; cooperative activities; mastery-oriented, individualized instruction; and developmentally appropriate, challenging activities. Results indicate that inclusive out-of-school time physical activity programs are important for positive psychosocial and physical skill development of children/youth with physical disabilities.
Stephen Crowcroft, Erin McCleave, Katie Slattery, and Aaron J. Coutts
To assess measurement sensitivity and diagnostic characteristics of athlete-monitoring tools to identify performance change.
Fourteen nationally competitive swimmers (11 male, 3 female; age 21.2 ± 3.2 y) recorded daily monitoring over 15 mo. The self-report group (n = 7) reported general health, energy levels, motivation, stress, recovery, soreness, and wellness. The combined group (n = 7) recorded sleep quality, perceived fatigue, total quality recovery (TQR), and heart-rate variability. The week-to-week change in mean weekly values was presented as coefficient of variance (CV%). Reliability was assessed on 3 occasions and expressed as the typical error CV%. Week-to-week change was divided by the reliability of each measure to calculate the signal-to-noise ratio. The diagnostic characteristics for both groups were assessed with receiver-operating-curve analysis, where area under the curve (AUC), Youden index, sensitivity, and specificity of measures were reported. A minimum AUC of .70 and lower confidence interval (CI) >.50 classified a “good” diagnostic tool to assess performance change.
Week-to-week variability was greater than reliability for soreness (3.1), general health (3.0), wellness% (2.0), motivation (1.6), sleep (2.6), TQR (1.8), fatigue (1.4), R-R interval (2.5), and LnRMSSD:RR (1.3). Only general health was a “good” diagnostic tool to assess decreased performance (AUC –.70, 95% CI, .61–.80).
Many monitoring variables are sensitive to changes in fitness and fatigue. However, no single monitoring variable could discriminate performance change. As such the use of a multidimensional system that may be able to better account for variations in fitness and fatigue should be considered.
Anna E. Saw, Michael Kellmann, Luana C. Main, and Paul B. Gastin
Athlete self-report measures (ASRM) have the potential to provide valuable insight into the training response; however, there is a disconnect between research and practice that needs to be addressed; namely, the measure or methods used in research are not always reflective of practice, or data primarily obtained from practice lacks empirical quality. This commentary reviews existing empirical measures and the psychometric properties required to be considered acceptable for research and practice. This information will allow discerning readers to make a judgment on the quality of ASRM data being reported in research papers. Fastidious practitioners and researchers are also provided with explicit guidelines for selecting and implementing an ASRM and reporting these details in research papers.
Avish P. Sharma, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Brad Clark, Jamie Stanley, Eileen Y. Robertson, and Kevin G. Thompson
To determine the effect of training at 2100-m natural altitude on running speed (RS) during training sessions over a range of intensities relevant to middle-distance running performance.
In an observational study, 19 elite middle-distance runners (mean ± SD age 25 ± 5 y, VO2max, 71 ± 5 mL · kg–1 · min–1) completed either 4–6 wk of sea-level training (CON, n = 7) or a 4- to 5-wk natural altitude-training camp living at 2100 m and training at 1400–2700 m (ALT, n = 12) after a period of sea-level training. Each training session was recorded on a GPS watch, and athletes also provided a score for session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE). Training sessions were grouped according to duration and intensity. RS (km/h) and sRPE from matched training sessions completed at sea level and 2100 m were compared within ALT, with sessions completed at sea level in CON describing normal variation.
In ALT, RS was reduced at altitude compared with sea level, with the greatest decrements observed during threshold- and VO2max-intensity sessions (5.8% and 3.6%, respectively). Velocity of low-intensity and race-pace sessions completed at a lower altitude (1400 m) and/or with additional recovery was maintained in ALT, though at a significantly greater sRPE (P = .04 and .05, respectively). There was no change in velocity or sRPE at any intensity in CON.
RS in elite middle-distance athletes is adversely affected at 2100-m natural altitude, with levels of impairment dependent on the intensity of training. Maintenance of RS at certain intensities while training at altitude can result in a higher perceived exertion.
Alireza Esmaeili, Andrew M. Stewart, William G. Hopkins, George P. Elias, and Robert J. Aughey
Detrimental changes in tendon structure increase the risk of tendinopathies. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of individual internal and external training loads and leg dominance on changes in the Achilles and patellar tendon structure.
The internal structure of the Achilles and patellar tendons of both limbs of 26 elite Australian footballers was assessed using ultrasound tissue characterization at the beginning and the end of an 18-wk preseason. Linear-regression analysis was used to estimate the effects of training load on changes in the proportion of aligned and intact tendon bundles for each side. Standardization and magnitude-based inferences were used to interpret the findings.
Possibly to very likely small increases in the proportion of aligned and intact tendon bundles occurred in the dominant Achilles (initial value 81.1%; change, ±90% confidence limits 1.6%, ±1.0%), nondominant Achilles (80.8%; 0.9%, ±1.0%), dominant patellar (75.8%; 1.5%, ±1.5%), and nondominant patellar (76.8%; 2.7%, ±1.4%) tendons. Measures of training load had inconsistent effects on changes in tendon structure; eg, there were possibly to likely small positive effects on the structure of the nondominant Achilles tendon, likely small negative effects on the dominant Achilles tendon, and predominantly no clear effects on the patellar tendons.
The small and inconsistent effects of training load are indicative of the role of recovery between tendon-overloading (training) sessions and the multivariate nature of the tendon response to load, with leg dominance a possible influencing factor.
Rahel Gilgen-Ammann, Wolfgang Taube, and Thomas Wyss
To quantify gait asymmetry in well-trained runners with and without previous injuries during interval training sessions incorporating different distances.
Twelve well-trained runners participated in 8 high-intensity interval-training sessions on a synthetic track over a 4-wk period. The training consisted of 10 × 400, 8 × 600, 7 × 800, and 6 × 1000-m running. Using an inertial measurement unit, the ground-contact time (GCT) of every step was recorded. To determine gait asymmetry, the GCTs between the left and right foot were compared.
Overall, gait asymmetry was 3.3% ± 1.4%, and over the course of a training session, the gait asymmetry did not change (F 1,33 = 1.673, P = .205). The gait asymmetry of the athletes with a previous history of injury was significantly greater than that of the athletes without a previous injury. However, this injury-related enlarged asymmetry was detectable only at short (400 m), but not at longer, distances (600–1000 m).
The gait asymmetry of well-trained athletes differed, depending on their history of injury and the running distance. To detect gait asymmetries, high-intensity runs over relatively short distances are recommended.