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  • Author: Antonio La Torre x
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Paolo Menaspà, Marco Sias, Gene Bates, and Antonio La Torre

Purpose: To describe the demand of recent World Cup (WC) races comparing top-10 (T10) and non-top-10 (N-T10) performances using power data. Methods: Race data were collected in 1-d World Cup races during the 2012–2015 road cycling seasons. Seven female cyclists completed 49 WC races, finishing 25 times in T10 and 24 times in N-T10. Peak power (1 s) and maximal mean power (MMP) for durations of 5, 10, 20, and 30 s and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, and 60 min expressed as power to weight ratio were analyzed in T10 and N-T10. The percentage of total race time spent at different power bands was compared between T10 and N-T10 using 0.75-W·kg−1 power bands, ranging from <0.75 to >7.50 W·kg−1. The number of efforts in which the power output remained above 7.50 W·kg−1 for at least 10 s was recorded. Results: MMPs were significantly higher in T10 than in N-T10, with a large effect size for durations between 10 s and 5 min. N-T10 spent more time in the 3.01- to 3.75-W·kg−1 power band when compared to T10 (P = .011); conversely, T10 spent more time in the 6.75- to 7.50- and >7.50-W·kg−1 power bands (P = .009 and .005, respectively) than N-T10. A significantly higher number of short and high-intensity efforts (≥10 s, >7.5 W·kg−1) was ridden by T10 than N-T10 (P = .002), specifically, 46 ± 20 and 30 ± 15 efforts for T10 and N-T10, respectively. Conclusions: The ability to ride at high intensity was determinant for successful road-cycling performances in WC races.

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Davide Ferioli, Andrea Bosio, Johann C. Bilsborough, Antonio La Torre, Michele Tornaghi, and Ermanno Rampinini

Purpose: To investigate the effect of the preparation period on neuromuscular characteristics of 12 professional (PRO) and 16 semiprofessional (SEMIPRO) basketball players and relationships between training-load indices and changes in neuromuscular physical performance. Methods: Before and after the preparation period, players underwent a countermovement jump (CMJ) test followed by a repeated change-of-direction (COD) test consisting of 4 levels with increasing intensities. The peripheral neuromuscular functions of the knee extensors (peak torque [PT]) were measured using electrical stimulations after each level (PT1, PT2, PT3, and PT4). Furthermore, PT Max (the highest value of PT) and PT Dec (PT decrement from PT Max to PT4) were calculated. Results: Trivial to small (effect size [ES] = −0.17 to 0.46) improvements were found in CMJ variables, regardless of competitive level. After the preparation period, peripheral fatigue induced by a COD test was similarly reduced in both PRO (PT Dec: from 27.8% [21.3%] to 11.4% [13.7%]; ES = −0.71; 90% confidence interval [CI], ±0.30) and SEMIPRO (PT Dec: from 26.1% [21.9%] to 10.2% [8.2%]; ES = −0.69; 90% CI, ±0.32). Moderate to large relationships were found between session rating of perceived exertion training load and changes in peak power output (PPO) measured during the CMJs (r s [90% confidence interval]: PPOabs, −.46 [±.26]; PPOrel, −.53 [±.23]) and in some PTs measured during the COD test (PT1, −.45 [±.26]; PT2, −.44 [±.26]; PT3, −.40 [±.27]; and PT Max, −.38 [±.28]). Conclusions: The preparation period induced minimal changes in the CMJ, while the ability to sustain repeated COD efforts was improved. Reaching high session rating of perceived exertion training loads might partially and negatively affect the ability to produce strength and power.

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Federico Pizzuto, Matteo Bonato, Gialunca Vernillo, Antonio La Torre, and Maria Francesca Piacentini


To analyze how many finalists of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships (WJCs) in the middle- and long-distance track events had dropped out from high-level competitions.


Starting from 2002, the 8 male and the 8 female finalists in the middle- and long-distance events of 6 editions of the WJC were followed until 2015 to evaluate how many missed the IAAF rankings for 2 consecutive years starting from the year after WJC participation. For those still competing at elite level, their careers were monitored.


In 2015, 61% of the 2002, 54.8% of the 2004, 48.3% of the 2006, 37.5% of the 2008, 26.2% of the 2010, and 29% of the 2012 WJC finalists were not present in the IAAF rankings. Of the 368 athletes considered, 75 (20.4%) were able to achieve the IAAF top 10 in 2.4 ± 2.2 y. There is evidence of relationships between dropout and gender (P = .040), WJC edition (P = .000), and nationality (P = .010) and between the possibility to achieve the IAAF top 10 and dropout (P = .000), continent (P = .001), relative age effect (P = .000), and quartile of birth (P = .050).


Even if 23 of the finalists won a medal at the Olympic Games or at the World Championships, it is still not clear if participation at the WJC is a prerequisite to success at a senior level.

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Luca Filipas, Emiliano Nerli Ballati, Matteo Bonato, Antonio La Torre, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose: To analyze the pacing profiles of the world’s top 800-m annual performances between 2010 and 2016, comparing men’s and women’s strategies. Methods: A total of 142 performances were characterized for overall race times and 0-to-200-m, 200-to-400-m, 400-to-600-m, and 600-to-800-m split times using available footage from YouTube. Only the best annual performance for each athlete was considered. Overall race and split speed were calculated so that each lap speed could be expressed as a percentage of the mean race speed. Results: The mean speed of the men’s 800-m was 7.73 (0.06) m·s−1, with the 0-to-200-m split faster than the others. After the first split, the speed decreased significantly during the 3 subsequent splits (P < .001). The mean speed of the women’s 800-m was 6.77 (0.05) m·s−1, with a significative variation in speed during the race (P < .001). The first split was faster than the others (P < .001). During the rest of the race, speed was almost constant, and no difference was observed between the other splits. Comparison between men and women revealed that there was an interaction between split and gender (P < .001), showing a different pacing behavior in 800-m competitions. Conclusions: The world’s best 800-m performances revealed an important difference in the pacing profile between men and women. Tactics could play a greater role in this difference, but physiological and behavioral characteristics are likely also important.

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Jacopo A. Vitale, Giuseppe Banfi, Andrea Galbiati, Luigi Ferini-Strambi, and Antonio La Torre

Purpose: To evaluate actigraphy-based sleep quality and perceived recovery before and after a night game in top-level volleyball athletes. Methods: Data on sleep parameters were collected by actigraphy for 3 consecutive nights with 24 elite athletes (12 male and 12 female; mean age [SD] = 26.0 [3.4] y, age range = 20–33 y) during the competitive season 2016–17. Data from 1 night before and 2 nights after an official night match were studied, and athletes’ subjective perception of recovery was evaluated by the Total Quality Recovery scale. The following actigraphic parameters were studied: time in bed, sleep latency, sleep efficiency, wake after sleep onset, total sleep time, immobility time, moving time, and fragmentation index. Results: The analysis highlighted significant differences for all sleep variables. Total sleep time was lower the first night after the match compared with prematch sleep (P = .02) and the second night (P = .0009) after night competition (P = .0001, F 2,23 = 22.93, ηp2 = .66). Similarly, sleep efficiency was lower immediately after the night competition compared with both prematch values (P = .03) and the second night (P = .0003) after competition (P = .0005, F 2,23 = 8.93, ηp2 = .44). The same differences were observed in the perceived recovery values (P = .001, F 2,23 = 13.37, ηp2 = .54). Conclusions: Coaches and medical staff should use these findings to develop a greater knowledge of how sleep differs during different phases of competition and to implement behavioral and sleep-hygiene strategies in top-level athletes.

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Davide Ferioli, Ermanno Rampinini, Andrea Bosio, Antonio La Torre, and Nicola A. Maffiuletti

Purpose: To examine differences between adult male basketball players of different competitive levels (study 1) and changes over a basketball season (study 2) of knee-extensor peripheral muscle function during multistage change-of-direction exercise (MCODE). Methods: In study 1, 111 players from 4 different divisions completed the MCODE during the regular season. In study 2, the MCODE was performed before (T1) and after (T2) the preparation period and during the competitive season (T3) by 32 players from divisions I, II, and III. The MCODE comprised 4 levels of increasing intensity for each player. The twitch peak torque (PT) of knee extensors was measured after each level. PTmax (the highest value of PT) and fatigue were calculated. Results: In study 1, the authors found possibly small differences (effect size [ES] [90% confidence interval] −0.24 [0.39]) in fatigue between divisions I and II. Division I was characterized by likely (ES 0.30–0.65) and very likely to almost certain (ES 0.74–1.41) better PTmax and fatigue levels than divisions III and VI, respectively. In study 2, fatigue was very likely reduced (ES −0.91 to −0.51) among all divisions from T1 to T2, whereas PTmax was likely to very likely reduced (ES −0.51 to −0.39) in divisions II and III. Conclusions: Professional basketball players are characterized by a better peripheral muscle function during MCODE. Most of the seasonal changes in peripheral muscle function occurred after the preparation period. These findings inform practitioners on the development of training programs to enhance the ability to sustain repeated change-of-direction efforts.

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Matteo Bonato, Antonio La Torre, Marina Saresella, Ivana Marventano, Giampiero Merati, Giuseppe Banfi, and Jacopo A. Vitale

Purpose: The authors compared sleep quality and salivary cortisol concentration after high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and small-sided games (SSGs) performed at the habitual training time in nonprofessional male soccer players. Methods: A total of 32 players (age = 24 [6] y, height = 1.77 [0.06] m, and body mass = 75 [12] kg) were randomized into an HIIT group or an SSG group. Actual sleep time, sleep efficiency (SE), sleep latency, immobility time (IT), moving time (MT), and fragmentation index were monitored using actigraphy before (PRE) and 2 nights after (POST 1 and POST 2) the training session. Salivary cortisol levels were measured before (PRE) and after (POST) training. Cortisol awakening response was evaluated. Results: Significant intragroup differences in the HIIT group were noted for actual sleep time (P < .0001), SE (P < .0001), sleep latency (P = .047), IT (P < .0001), MT (P < .0001), and fragmentation index (P < .0001) between PRE and POST 1 and for SE (P = .035), IT (P = .004), MT (P = .006), and fragmentation index (P = .048) between PRE and POST 2. Intergroup differences for actual sleep time (P = .014), SE (P = .048), IT (P < .0001), and MT (P = .046) were observed between the HIIT and the SSGs group at POST 1 were detected. Significant intragroup variations were observed in PRE and POST salivary cortisol levels (P < .0001 for HIIT; P = .0003 for SSGs) and cortisol awakening response (P < .0001 for HIIT; P < .0001 for SSGs). Significant intergroup differences between the HIIT and the SSGs group were found at POST (P < .0001) and in cortisol awakening response (P = .017). Conclusions: Changes in actigraphy-based sleep parameters and salivary cortisol levels were greater after an acute session of HIIT than SSGs in this sample of nonprofessional male soccer players.

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Jacopo A. Vitale, Matteo Bonato, Lorenzo Petrucci, Giorgio Zucca, Antonio La Torre, and Giuseppe Banfi

Purpose: Little is known about the effect of sleep restriction (SR) on different domains of athletes’ physical performance. Therefore, the aim of this randomized, counterbalanced, and crossover study was to evaluate the effect of acute SR on sport-specific technical and athletic performance in male junior tennis players. Methods: Tennis players (N = 12; age 15.4 ± 2.6 y) were randomly allocated to either a sleep-restriction condition (SR, n = 6), where they experienced acute sleep restriction the night before the test session (≤5 h of sleep), or to a control condition (CON, n = 6), where they followed their habitual sleep–wake routines. Testing procedures included 20 left and right serves, 15 forehand and backhand crosscourt shots, and a repeated-sprint-ability test (RSA). The accuracy of serves and shots was considered for further analysis. One week later, players of SR joined CON, and players of CON experienced SR, and all test procedures were repeated. Results: Significant decrease in the accuracy of right (−17.5%, P = .010, effect size [ES] = 1.0, moderate) and left serve (−14.1%, P = .014, ES = 1.2, large), crosscourt backhand (−23.9%, P = .003, ES ≥ 2.0, very large), and forehand shot (−15.6%, P = .014, ES = 1.1, moderate) were observed in SR compared to CON, while RSA was similar in both conditions. Conclusion: Coaches and athletes at the team and individual level should be aware that 1 night of SR affects sport-specific but not athletic performance in tennis players.

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Luca Filipas, Davide Ferioli, Giuseppe Banfi, Antonio La Torre, and Jacopo Antonino Vitale

Purpose: This study aimed to investigate the single and combined effects of sleep restriction (SR) and mental fatigue (MF) on free-throw (FT) performance among adult male basketball players. Methods: A total of 19 amateur male basketball players performed, in a randomized, counterbalanced, and crossover order, 2 identical experimental sessions separated by an interval of 1 week. The difference between the 2 sessions was in the quantity of sleep the night before the sessions, as follows: in one case, the participants followed their habitual sleep–wake routines; in the other session, they were forced to sleep not more than 5 hours. During the experimental sessions, the participants performed 60 basketball FTs on 2 occasions, separated by watching a basketball tactical video for 30 minutes designed to induce MF. As such, the FT test was completed in 4 different conditions: control, MF, SR, and SR and MF combined. Results: The participants registered a significantly lower total sleep time in acute SR (P < .001). The subjective rating of MF was lower in the control than in MF, SR, and SR and MF combined (P < .001). There were no differences between conditions for the subjective ratings of motivation. FT accuracy was higher in the control than in MF, SR, and SR and MF combined (P = .010), while no differences were observed between the 3 experimental conditions (all P > .05). Conclusion: The results indicate that a combined effect of MF and SR induces a small reduction in basketball FT performance, similar to MF or SR alone.

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Davide Ferioli, Diego Rucco, Ermanno Rampinini, Antonio La Torre, Marco M. Manfredi, and Daniele Conte

Purpose: To examine the physiological, physical, and technical demands of game-based drills (GBDs) with regular dribble (RD) or no dribble (ND) involving a different number of players (3 vs 3, 4 vs 4, and 5 vs 5). Methods: Ten regional-level male basketball players performed 6 full-court GBD formats (each consisting of 3 bouts of 4 min and 2 min rest) on multiple occasions. The physiological and perceptual responses were measured through heart rate and rating of perceived exertion. Video-based time–motion analysis was performed to assess the GBD physical demands. The frequencies of occurrence and the duration were calculated for high-intensity, moderate-intensity, low-intensity, and recovery activities. Technical demands were assessed with a notional-analysis technique. A 2-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to assess statistical differences between GBD formats. Results: A greater perceptual response (rating of perceived exertion) was recorded during 3 versus 3 than 5 versus 5 formats (P = .005). Significant interactions were observed for the number of recovery (P = .021), low-intensity activity (P = .007), and all movements (P = .001) completed. Greater time was spent performing low-intensity and high-intensity activities during RD than ND format. Greater technical demands were observed for several variables during 3 versus 3 than 4 versus 4 or 5 versus 5. A greater number of turnovers (P = .027), total (P ≤ .001), and correct passes (P ≤ .001) were recorded during ND than RD format. Conclusions: The number of players predominantly affected the perceptual response to GBD, while both the number of players and rule modification (RD vs ND) affected activities performed during GBD. Reducing the number of players increases the GBD technical elements, while ND format promotes a greater number of turnovers and passes.