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David B. Pyne and Rick L. Sharp

The aquatic sports competitions held during the summer Olympic Games include diving, open-water swimming, pool swimming, synchronized swimming, and water polo. Elite-level performance in each of these sports requires rigorous training and practice to develop the appropriate physiological, biomechanical, artistic, and strategic capabilities specific to each sport. Consequently, the daily training plans of these athletes are quite varied both between and within the sports. Common to all aquatic athletes, however, is that daily training and preparation consumes several hours and involves frequent periods of high-intensity exertion. Nutritional support for this high-level training is a critical element of the preparation of these athletes to ensure the energy and nutrient demands of the training and competition are met. In this article, we introduce the fundamental physical requirements of these sports and specifically explore the energetics of human locomotion in water. Subsequent articles in this issue explore the specific nutritional requirements of each aquatic sport. We hope that such exploration will provide a foundation for future investigation of the roles of optimal nutrition in optimizing performance in the aquatic sports.

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David B. Pyne, Matt Spencer and Iñigo Mujika

One of the challenges for sports scientists working in football is to balance the needs for routine fitness testing with daily fatigue and well-being monitoring to best manage the physical preparation of players. In this commentary, the authors examine contemporary issues of fitness testing in football to identify ways of improving the value of routine testing and monitoring. A testing program must be well planned and organized to ensure that the results are useful. Different tests can be employed for younger and older players. A rigorous approach to analysis and interpretation of results is desirable, and database management must address both short- and long-term requirements of players, staff, and programs.

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Louise M. Burke and David B. Pyne

Bicarbonate loading is a popular ergogenic aid used primarily by athletes in short-duration, high-intensity sporting events and competitions. Controlled experimental trials have shown that small (worthwhile) benefits can obtained from acute doses of bicarbonate taken before exercise. Gastrointestinal problems encountered by some athletes limit the widespread use of this practice, however. The transfer of positive research findings to the competitive environment has proved problematic for some individuals. More recent applications involve serial ingestion of bicarbonate over several days before competition or during high-intensity training sessions over a few weeks. A number of research questions need to be addressed to enhance applications of bicarbonate loading in the elite sport environment. This commentary examines some of research and practical issues of bicarbonate loading used to enhance both training and competitive performance.

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David Simbaña Escobar, Philippe Hellard, David B. Pyne and Ludovic Seifert

To study the variability in stroking parameters between and within laps and individuals during competitions, we compared and modeled the changes of speed, stroke rate, and stroke length in 32 top-level male and female swimmers over 4 laps (L1–L4) in 200-m freestyle events using video-derived 2-dimensional direct linear transformation. For the whole group, speed was greater in L1, with significant decreases across L2, L3, and L4 (1.80 ± 0.10 vs 1.73 ± 0.08; 1.69 ± 0.09; 1.66 ± 0.09  · s−1, P < .05). This variability was attributed to a decrease in stroke length (L2: 2.43 ± 0.19 vs L4: 2.20 ± 0.13 m, P < .05) and an increase in stroke rate (L2: 42.8 ± 2.6 vs L4: 45.4 ± 2.3 stroke · min−1, P < .05). The coefficient of variation and the biological coefficient of variation in speed were greater for male versus female (3.9 ± 0.7 vs 3.1 ± 0.7; 2.9 ± 1.0 vs 2.6 ± 0.7, P < .05) and higher in L1 versus L2 (3.9 ± 1.3 vs 3.1 ± 0.1; 2.9 ± 0.9 vs 2.3 ± 0.7, P < .05). Intra-lap speed values were best represented by a cubic (n = 38), then linear (n = 37) and quadratic model (n = 8). The cubic fit was more frequent for males (43.8%) than females (15.6%), suggesting greater capacity to generate higher acceleration after the turn. The various stroking parameters managements within lap suggest that each swimmer adapts his/her behavior to the race constraints.

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Andrew A. Dingley, David B. Pyne and Brendan Burkett

Purpose:

To characterize relationships between propulsion, anthropometry, and performance in Paralympic swimming.

Methods:

A cross-sectional study of swimmers (13 male, 15 female) age 20.5 ± 4.4 y was conducted. Subject locomotor categorizations were no physical disability (n = 8, classes S13–S14) and low-severity (n = 11, classes S9–S10) or midseverity disability (n = 9, classes S6–S8). Full anthropometric profiles estimated muscle mass and body fat, a bilateral swim-bench ergometer quantified upper-body power production, and 100-m time trials quantified swimming performance.

Results:

Correlations between ergometer mean power and swimming performance increased with degree of physical disability (low-severity male r = .65, ±0.56, and female r = .68, ±0.64; midseverity, r = .87, ±0.41, and r = .79, ±0.75). The female midseverity group showed nearperfect (positive) relationships for taller swimmers’ (with a greater muscle mass and longer arm span) swimming faster, while for female no- and low-severity-disability groups, greater muscle mass was associated with slower velocity (r = .78, ±0.43, and r = .65, ±0.66). This was supported with lighter females (with less frontal surface area) in the low-severity group being faster (r = .94, ±0.24). In a gender contrast, low-severity males with less muscle mass (r = -.64, ±0.56), high skinfolds (r = .78, ±0.43), a longer arm span (r = .58, ±0.60) or smaller frontal surface area (r = -.93, ±0.19) were detrimental to swimming-velocity production.

Conclusion:

Low-severity male and midseverity female Paralympic swimmers should be encouraged to develop muscle mass and upper-body power to enhance swimming performance. The generalized anthropometric measures appear to be a secondary consideration for coaches.

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Anthea C. Clarke, Judith M. Anson and David B. Pyne

Purpose:

To examine relationships between on-field game movement patterns and changes in markers of neuromuscular fatigue and muscle damage during a 2-d women’s rugby sevens tournament.

Methods:

Female national (mean ± SD n = 12, 22.3 ± 2.5 y, 1.67 ± 0.04 m, 65.8 ± 4.6 kg) and state (n = 10, 24.4 ± 4.3 y, 1.67 ± 0.03 m, 66.1 ± 7.9 kg) representative players completed baseline testing for lower-body neuromuscular function (countermovement-jump [CMJ] test), muscle damage (capillary creatine kinase [CK]), perceived soreness, and perceived recovery. Testing was repeated after games on days 1 and 2 of the tournament. GPS (5-Hz) data were collected throughout the tournament (4−6 games/player).

Results:

National players were involved in greater on-field movements for total time, distance, high-speed running (>5 m/s), and impacts >10 g (effect size [ES] = 0.55−0.97) and displayed a smaller decrement in performance from day 1 to day 2. Despite this, state players had a much greater 4-fold increase (ΔCK = 737 U/L) in CK compared with the 2-fold increase (ΔCK = 502 U/L) in national players (ES = 0.73). Both groups had similar perceived soreness and recovery while CMJ performance was unchanged. High-speed running and impacts >10 g were largely correlated (r = .66−.91) with ΔCK for both groups.

Conclusion:

A 2-day women’s rugby sevens tournament elicits substantial muscle damage; however, there was little change in lower-body neuromuscular function. Modest increases in CK can largely be attributed to high-speed running and impacts >10 g that players typically endure.

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Louise M. Burke, David B. Pyne and Richard D. Telford

Oral supplementation with creatine monohydrate (Cr.H20) has been reported to increase muscle creatine phosphate levels. The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of such supplementation on performance of a single-effort sprint by elite swimmers. Thirty-two elite swimmers (M = 18, F = 14; age = 17-25 years) from the Australian Institute of Sport were tested on two occasions, 1 week apart. Tests performed were 25-m, 50-m, and 100-m maximal effort sprints (electronically timed with dive start, swimmers performing their best stroke), each with approximately 10 min active recovery. A 10-s maximal leg ergometry test was also undertaken. Swimmers were divided into two groups matched for sex, stroke/event, and sprint time over 50 m, and groups were randomly assigned to 5 days of Cr.H20 supplementation (4 · day−1 x 5 g Cr.H20 + 2 g sucrose, n = 16) or placebo (4 · day−1 x 5 g Poly cose + -2 g sucrose, n = 16) prior to the second trial. Results revealed no significant differences between the group means for sprint times or between 10-s maximal leg ergometry power and work. This study does not support the hypothesis that creatine supplementation enhances single-effort sprint ability of elite swimmers.

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David B. Pyne, Evert A. Verhagen and Margo Mountjoy

In this review, we outline key principles for prevention of injury and illness in aquatic sports, detail the epidemiology of injury and illness in aquatic athletes at major international competitions and in training, and examine the relevant scientific evidence on nutrients for reducing the risk of illness and injury. Aquatic athletes are encouraged to consume a well-planned diet with sufficient calories, macronutrients (particularly carbohydrate and protein), and micronutrients (particularly iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E, B6, and B12) to maintain health and performance. Ingesting carbohydrate via sports drinks, gels, or sports foods during prolonged training sessions is beneficial in maintaining energy availability. Studies of foods or supplements containing plant polyphenols and selected strains of probiotic species are promising, but further research is required. In terms of injury, intake of vitamin D, protein, and total caloric intake, in combination with treatment and resistance training, promotes recovery back to full health and training.

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Trent Stellingwerff, David B. Pyne and Louise M. Burke

Elite athletes who compete in aquatic sports face the constant challenge of arduous training and competition schedules in difficult and changing environmental conditions. The huge range of water temperatures to which swimmers and other aquatic athletes are often exposed (16–31 °C for open-water swimming), coupled with altered aquatic thermoregulatory responses as compared with terrestrial athletes, can challenge the health, safety, and performance of these athletes. Other environmental concerns include air and water pollution, altitude, and jetlag and travel fatigue. However, these challenging environments provide the potential for several nutritional interventions that can mitigate the negative effects and enhance adaptation and performance. These interventions include providing adequate hydration and carbohydrate and iron intake while at altitude; optimizing body composition and fluid and carbohydrate intake when training or competing in varying water temperatures; and maximizing fluid and food hygiene when traveling. There is also emerging information on nutritional interventions to manage jetlag and travel fatigue, such as the timing of food intake and the strategic use of caffeine or melatonin. Aquatic athletes often undertake their major global competitions where accommodations feature cafeteria-style buffet eating. These environments can often lead to inappropriate choices in the type and quantity of food intake, which is of particular concern to divers and synchronized swimmers who compete in physique-specific sports, as well as swimmers who have a vastly reduced energy expenditure during their taper. Taken together, planned nutrition and hydration interventions can have a favorable impact on aquatic athletes facing varying environmental challenges.

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Andrew A. Dingley, David B. Pyne and Brendan Burkett

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.