This paper demonstrates how a qualitative methodology can be used to gain novel insights into the demands of wheelchair racing and the impact of particular racing chair configurations on optimal sport performance via engagement with expert users (wheelchair racers, coaches, and manufacturers). We specifically explore how expert users understand how wheels, tires, and bearings impact sport performance and how they engage, implement, or reject evidence-based research pertaining to these components. We identify areas where participants perceive there to be an immediate need for more research especially pertaining to the ability to make individualized recommendations for athletes. The findings from this project speak to the value of a qualitative research design for capturing the embodied knowledge of expert users and also make suggestions for “next step” projects pertaining to wheels, tires, and bearings drawn directly from the comments of participants.
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Andrea Bundon, Barry S. Mason, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
Barry S. Mason, Viola C. Altmann, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
Purpose: To determine the effect of trunk and arm impairments on physical and technical performance during wheelchair rugby (WR) competition. Methods: Thirty-one highly trained WR players grouped according to their trunk (no trunk [NT]; some trunk [T] function) and arm impairments (poor, moderate, and good arm function) participated in 5 WR matches. Players’ physical (wheelchair mobility) and technical (ball handling) activities were analyzed using an indoor tracking system and video analysis, respectively. Results: Trunk impairment explained some of the variance in physical (10.6–23.5%) and technical (16.2–33.0%) performance. T covered more distance, had more possession, scored more goals, and received and made more passes yet spent less time at low speeds and performed fewer inbounds than NT (≤.05). Arm impairment explained some of the variance in all physical (16.7–47.0%) and the majority of technical (13.1–53.3%) performance measures. Moderate and good arm function covered more distance, reached higher peak speeds, spent more time in higher speed zones, scored more goals, had more possession, and received and made more passes, with a higher percentage of 1-handed and long passes, than poor arm function. Good arm function also received more passes and made a higher percentage of 1-handed passes and defensive blocks than moderate arm function (P ≤ .05). Conclusions: Arm impairment affects a greater number of physical and technical measures of performance specific to WR than trunk impairment during competition. Having active finger function (good arm function) yielded no further improvements in physical performance but positively influenced a small number of technical skills.
Barry S. Mason, James M. Rhodes, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
The purpose of the current study was to determine the validity and reliability of an inertial sensor for assessing speed specific to athletes competing in the wheelchair court sports (basketball, rugby, and tennis). A wireless inertial sensor was attached to the axle of a sports wheelchair. Over two separate sessions, the sensor was tested across a range of treadmill speeds reflective of the court sports (1.0 to 6.0 m/s). At each test speed, ten 10-second trials were recorded and were compared with the treadmill (criterion). A further session explored the dynamic validity and reliability of the sensor during a sprinting task on a wheelchair ergometer compared with high-speed video (criterion). During session one, the sensor marginally overestimated speed, whereas during session two these speeds were underestimated slightly. However, systematic bias and absolute random errors never exceeded 0.058 m/s and 0.086 m/s, respectively, across both sessions. The sensor was also shown to be a reliable device with coefficients of variation (% CV) never exceeding 0.9 at any speed. During maximal sprinting, the sensor also provided a valid representation of the peak speeds reached (1.6% CV). Slight random errors in timing led to larger random errors in the detection of deceleration values. The results of this investigation have demonstrated that an inertial sensor developed for sports wheelchair applications provided a valid and reliable assessment of the speeds typically experienced by wheelchair athletes. As such, this device will be a valuable monitoring tool for assessing aspects of linear wheelchair performance.
James M. Rhodes, Barry S. Mason, Thomas A.W. Paulson, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
Purpose: To examine the speed profiles of elite wheelchair rugby (WCR) players during game-simulation training drills of differing player number and shot-clock regulations. A secondary aim was to determine whether the profiles were further influenced by player classification. Methods: Eight elite WCR players (low-point n = 3, high-point n = 5) were monitored using a radio-frequency-based indoor tracking system during training sessions over a 5-mo period. Speed profiles were collected for 3 modified game-simulation drills—3-versus-3 drills (n = 8 observations), 30-s shot clock (n = 24 observations), and 15-s shot clock (n = 16 observations)—and were compared with regular game-simulation drills (4 vs 4, 40-s shot clock; n = 16 observations). Measures included mean and peak speed; exercise-intensity ratios, defined as the ratio of time spent performing at high and low speeds; and the number of high-speed activities performed. Results: Compared with regular game-simulation drills, 3-versus-3 drills elicited a moderate increase in mean speed (6.3%; effect size [ES] = 0.7) and the number of high-speed activities performed (44.1%; ES = 1.1). Minimal changes in speed profiles were observed during the 30-s shot clock, although moderate to large increases in all measures were observed during the 15-s shot-clock drills. Classification-specific differences were further identified, with increased activity observed for high-point players during the 3-versus-3 drill and for low-point players during the 15-s shot clock. Conclusion: By reducing the number of players on court and the shot clock to 15 s, coaches can significantly increase elite WCR players’ speed profiles during game-simulation drills.
James M. Rhodes, Barry S. Mason, Thomas A.W. Paulson, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
To investigate the speed profiles of individual training modes in comparison with wheelchair rugby (WCR) competition across player classifications.
Speed profiles of 15 international WCR players were determined using a radio-frequency-based indoor tracking system. Mean and peak speed (m/s), work:rest ratios, and the relative time spent in (%) and number of high-speed activities performed were measured across training sessions (n = 464) and international competition (n = 34). Training was classified into 1 of 4 modes: conditioning (n = 71), skill-based (n = 133), game-related (n = 151), and game-simulation drills (n = 109). Game-simulation drills were further categorized by the structured duration, which were 3-min game clock (n = 44), 8-min game clock (n = 39), and 10-min running clock (n = 26). Players were grouped by their International Wheelchair Rugby Federation classification as either low-point (≤1.5; n = 8) or high-point players (≥2.0; n = 7).
Conditioning drills were shown to exceed the demands of competition, irrespective of classification (P ≤ .005; effect size [ES] = 0.6–2.0). Skill-based and game-related drills underrepresented the speed profiles of competition (P ≤ .005; ES = 0.5–1.1). Mean speed and work:rest ratios were significantly lower during 3- and 8-min game-simulation drills in relation to competition (P ≤ .039; ES = 0.5–0.7). However, no significant differences were identified between the 10-min running clock and competition.
Although game-simulation drills provided the closest representation of competition, the structured duration appeared important since the 10-min running clock increased training specificity. Coaches can therefore modify the desired training response by making subtle changes to the format of game-simulation drills.
Ben T. Stephenson, Thomas J. O’Brien, Michael J. Hutchinson, Christina D’Angeli, Alex Cockram, Barry S. Mason, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
Purpose: To examine the efficacy of per-cooling via ice slurry ingestion (ICE) in wheelchair tennis players exercising in the heat. Method: Eight wheelchair tennis players undertook sprints (4 sets of 10 × 5 s over 40 min) in a hot environment (∼32 °C), interspersed by 3 boluses of 2.67 g·kg (6.8 g·kg total) ICE or drinking temperate water (control condition). Athletes performed an on-court test of repeated sprint ability (20 × 20 m) in temperate conditions immediately before and 20 minutes after the heat exposure, and time to complete each sprint as well as intermediate times were recorded. Gastrointestinal and weighted mean skin and forehead temperatures were collected throughout the heat exposure, as were thermal sensation, heart rate, and blood lactate concentration. Sweat rate was calculated from body mass changes and fluid/ice intakes. Results: Compared with the control condition, ICE resulted in a significantly lower gastrointestinal temperature (95% CI, 0.11–0.17 °C; P < .001), forehead temperature (0.58–1.06 °C; P < .001), thermal sensation (0.07–0.50 units; P = .017), and sweat rate (0.06–0.46 L·h−1; P = .017). Skin temperature, heart rate, and blood lactate concentration were not significantly different between conditions (P ≥ .598). There was no overall change preheating to postheating (P ≥ .114) or an effect of condition (P ≥ .251) on repeated sprint times. Conclusions: ICE is effective at lowering objective and subjective thermal strain when consumed between sets of repeated wheelchair sprints in the heat. However, ICE has no effect on on-court repeated 20-m sprint performance.
James M. Rhodes, Barry S. Mason, Bertrand Perrat, Martin J. Smith, Laurie A. Malone, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
To quantify the activity profiles of elite wheelchair rugby (WCR) players and establish classification-specific arbitrary speed zones. In addition, indicators of fatigue during full matches were explored.
Seventy-five elite WCR players from 11 national teams were monitored using a radio-frequency-based, indoor tracking system across 2 international tournaments. Players who participated in complete quarters (n = 75) and full matches (n = 25) were included and grouped by their International Wheelchair Rugby Federation functional classification: groups I (0.5), II (1.0–1.5), III (2.0–2.5), and IV (3.0–3.5).
During a typical quarter, significant increases in total distance (m), relative distance (m/min), and mean speed (m/s) were associated with an increase in classification group (P < .001), with the exception of groups III and IV. However, group IV players achieved significantly higher peak speeds (3.82 ± 0.31 m/s) than groups I (2.99 ± 0.28 m/s), II (3.44 ± 0.26 m/s), and III (3.67 ± 0.32 m/s). Groups I and II differed significantly in match intensity during very-low/low-speed zones and the number of high-intensity activities in comparison with groups III and IV (P < .001). Full-match analysis revealed that activity profiles did not differ significantly between quarters.
Notable differences in the volume of activity were displayed across the functional classification groups. However, the specific on-court requirements of defensive (I and II) and offensive (III and IV) match roles appeared to influence the intensity of match activities, and consequently training prescription should be structured accordingly.
Thomas J. O’Brien, Simon J. Briley, Barry S. Mason, Christof A. Leicht, Keith Tolfrey, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
Purpose: To compare the effects of typical competition versus high-intensity intermittent warm-up (WU) on thermoregulatory responses and repeated sprint performance during wheelchair rugby game play. Methods: An intermittent sprint protocol (ISP) simulating the demands of wheelchair rugby was performed by male wheelchair rugby players (7 with cervical spinal cord injury [SCI] and 8 without SCI) following 2 WU protocols. These included a typical competition WU (control) and a WU consisting of high-intensity efforts (INT). Core temperature (Tcore), thermal sensation, and thermal comfort were recorded. Wheelchair performance variables associated to power, speed, and fatigue were also calculated. Results: During the WU, Tcore was similar between conditions for both groups. During the ISP, a higher Tcore was found for SCI compared to NON-SCI (38.1 [0.3] vs 37.7 [0.3] °C: P = .036, d = 0.75), and the SCI group experienced a higher peak Tcore for INT compared with control (39.0 [0.4] vs 38.6 [0.6] °C; P = .004). Peak Tcore occurred later in the ISP for players with SCI (96 [5.8] vs 48 [2.7] min; P < .001). All players reported a higher thermal sensation and thermal comfort following INT (P < .001), with no differences between conditions throughout the ISP. No significant differences were found in wheelchair performance variables during the ISP between conditions (P ≥ .143). Conclusions: The high-INT WU increased thermal strain in the SCI group during the ISP, potentially due to increased metabolic heat production and impaired thermoregulation, while not impacting on repeated sprint performance. It may be advisable to limit high-INT bouts during a WU in players with SCI to mitigate issues related to hyperthermia in subsequent performance.
Barry S. Mason, Rienk M.A. van der Slikke, Michael J. Hutchinson, Monique A.M. Berger, and Victoria L. Goosey-Tolfrey
Purpose: To examine the effects of different small-sided games (SSGs) on physical and technical aspects of performance in wheelchair basketball (WB) players. Design: Observational cohort study. Methods: Fifteen highly trained WB players participated in a single 5v5 (24-s shot clock) match and three 3v3 SSGs (18-s shot clock) on a (1) full court, (2) half-court, and (3) modified-length court. During all formats, players’ activity profiles were monitored using an indoor tracking system and inertial measurement units. Physiological responses were monitored via heart rate and rating of perceived exertion. Technical performance, that is, ball handling, was monitored using video analysis. Repeated-measures analysis of variance and effect sizes (ESs) were calculated to determine the statistical significance and magnitude of any differences between game formats. Results: Players covered less distance and reached lower peak speeds during half-court (P ≤ .0005; ES ≥ very large) compared with all other formats. Greater distances were covered, and more time was spent performing moderate- and high-speed activity (P ≤ .008; ES ≥ moderate) during full court compared with all other formats. Game format had little bearing on physiological responses, and the only differences in technical performance observed were in relation to 5v5. Players spent more time in possession, took more shots, and performed more rebounds in all 3v3 formats compared with 5v5 (P ≤ .028; ES ≥ moderate). Conclusions: Court dimensions affect the activity profiles of WB players during 3v3 SSGs yet had little bearing on technical performance when time pressures (shot clocks) were constant. These findings have important implications for coaches to understand which SSG format may be most suitable for physically and technically preparing WB players.