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Cognitive Predictors of Performance in Well-Trained Table Tennis Players With Intellectual Disability

Debbie Van Biesen, Jennifer Mactavish, Janne Kerremans, and Yves C. Vanlandewijck

Evidence-based classification systems in Paralympic sport require knowledge of the underlying effect of impairment in a specific sport. This study investigated the relationship between cognition and tactical proficiency in 88 well-trained table tennis players with intellectual disability (ID; 29 women, 59 men, M ± SD IQ 59.9 ± 9.6). Data were collected at 3 competitions sanctioned by the International Federation for Para-Athletes with Intellectual Disabilities (INAS). A generic cognitive test consisting of 8 neuropsychological subtests was used to assess cognitive abilities relevant to sport (reaction time, processing speed, and decision speed; spatial visualization; fluid reasoning; memory; executive functioning; and visual processing). The backward stepwise-regression analysis model revealed that 18% of the variance in tactical proficiency was attributed to spatial visualization and simple reaction time. Applications of these findings resulted in an evidence-based classification system that led to the reinclusion of athletes with ID in Paralympic table tennis and provide the basis for future research in this important area.

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A Systematic Review of Digital Interventions to Promote Physical Activity in People With Intellectual Disabilities and/or Autism

Debbie Van Biesen, Tine Van Damme, Natalia Morgulec-Adamowicz, Aleksandra Buchholz, Momna Anjum, and Séan Healy

This systematic review synthesized the literature on digital health interventions for the promotion of physical activity (PA) among people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. From an initial screening of 553 records, 10 studies underwent full-text review. Data were extracted relating to study, intervention, and sample characteristics and PA-related findings. Methodological quality was evaluated using the Crowe Critical Appraisal Tool. There were mixed findings pertaining to the effectiveness of digital health interventions for promoting PA among these populations. Positive results were reported for three of five active-video-game interventions, two of three social-media-based interventions, and one of two e-learning/multicomponent interventions. Digital health interventions can potentially be effective for promoting PA among people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. However, the large variation in the samples and intervention types and a reliance on pre- and quasi-experimental research designs suggest that inferences should be made with caution and additional research is needed.

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The Ability of Elite Table Tennis Players With Intellectual Disabilities to Adapt Their Service/Return

Debbie Van Biesen, Joeri Verellen, Christophe Meyer, Jennifer Mactavish, Peter Van de Vliet, and Yves Vanlandewijck

In this study the ability of elite table tennis players with intellectual disability (ID) to adapt their service/return to specific ball spin characteristics was investigated. This was done by examining the performance of 39 players with ID and a reference group of 8 players without ID on a standardized table tennis specific test battery. The battery included 16 sets of 15 identical serves that had to be returned to a fixed target, and two additional tests measuring reaction time and upper limb speed. A 2 × 4 ANOVA (with group and type of spin as independent variables) with repeated measurements (15 consecutive returns) supported the hypothesis that elite table tennis players with ID were significantly less proficient than their counterparts without ID, but both groups demonstrated a comparable progression in learning. Spearman correlation coefficients indicated a positive relationship between accuracy of return and upper limb speed (rho = 0.42: p < .05) and reaction time (rho = 0.41: p < .05), showing that these generic factors are useful in partially explaining skill variations in specific sports.

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Structure and Organization of Sport for People With Intellectual Disabilities Across Europe

Adriana Marin-Urquiza, Jan Burns, Natalia Morgulec-Adamowicz, and Debbie Van Biesen

Opportunities to participate and compete in sports for athletes with intellectual disability (ID) have increased; however, this group still encounters limitations in accessing a comprehensive range of sports. This study addressed the current knowledge on how sport for people with ID is organized and the relationships between the major sport organizations for people with ID across 10 European countries. The participants were 29 national sport organizations for people with ID. Data were collected using semistructured interviews with representatives from the key organizations and analyzed thematically. From the results, two major themes emerged: (a) connection and networking between sport organizations and (b) organizational landscape of each nation (i.e., ID, multidisability, or mainstream). The results of this study contribute to understanding how sport for people with ID is organized across the participating nations, demonstrating different models of development and examples of good practice.

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Effect of Sildenafil Citrate on Exercise Capacity in Athletes With Spinal Cord Injury

Claudio Perret, Debbie Van Biesen, Matthias Strupler, Pia Pit-Grosheide, and Yves Vanlandewijck

Purpose: Ingestion of sildenafil citrate has performance-enhancing effects at high altitudes above 3800 m in able-bodied individuals. It is unknown whether it can improve the performance of athletes with spinal cord injury (SCI) at moderate altitudes (<2200 m), relevant to Paralympic competitions. As most men with SCI suffer from erectile dysfunction of neurologic origin and use sildenafil on a regular basis, it seems important to study the impact of sildenafil on exercise capacity. The outcome of this study is also relevant to the antidoping community. Methods: Twenty-seven healthy male wheelchair athletes with a motor-complete SCI participated in this prospective double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. The participants performed arm cranking exercise to exhaustion at sea level and moderate altitude (2200 m) after ingestion of 50 mg sildenafil citrate or a placebo. Peak power output, peak oxygen uptake, peak heart rate, rating of perceived exertion, oxygen saturation, and lactate concentrations at exhaustion were measured. Results: Friedman analysis showed that peak power output at sea level was significantly higher (P = .004) under placebo treatment (median [minimum; maximum]: 120 W [35; 170]) compared with sildenafil (115 W [40; 165]). Blood oxygen saturation under sildenafil treatment at sea level (98% [81; 100]) was significantly higher (P = .006) compared with sildenafil treatment at moderate altitude (94% [85; 100]). All other parameters revealed no impact of sildenafil or altitude. Conclusions: In this study, the ingestion of sildenafil citrate in athletes with SCI demonstrated no positive effects on peak arm-cranking-exercise capacity compared with placebo either at sea level or at moderate altitude.