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Jan Burns

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Rosanna Gilderthorp, Jan Burns and Fergal Jones

It has been shown that having intellectual disabilities impacts to reduce performance compared to athletes without this impairment. However, it has also been demonstrated that there is a not a direct link between intelligence and athletic performance. To advance elite ID sport more needs to be understood about the relationship between this impairment and sporting performance. This is vital if competition classification systems are to be based on theory and evidence. This study used the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) as an approach to classification and examined the impact of multiple health problems on athletic performance. A health survey was administered to two groups of athletes with ID: elite and regional level athletes. Athletes with Down Syndrome were also identified. Overall disability scores predicted sporting performance, but not IQ or Down Syndrome. The implications of these findings are discussed with reference to the ICF framework and classification.

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Kate Ferrara, Jan Burns and Hayley Mills

Despite some changes to the way that people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are viewed in society, negative attitudes prevail. One of the aspirations of the 2012 Paralympic games was to influence the public’s attitudes toward people with disabilities. The aim of this study was to investigate whether stimuli depicting people with ID performing at Paralympic level of competition change attitudes toward ID. A mixed randomized comparison design was employed comparing 2 groups: those who viewed Paralympic-level ID sport footage and information and those who viewed Olympic footage and information. One hundred fourteen students, mean age 25 yr, were administered measures of implicit (subconscious) attitudes toward disability and explicit (belief-based) attitudes toward ID. Implicit attitudes significantly changed in a positive direction for both groups. The findings provide evidence that both Paralympic (ID) and Olympic media coverage may have at least a short-term effect on attitudes toward people with disabilities.

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Isobelle J.R. Biggin, Jan H. Burns and Mark Uphill

Research suggests elite athletes have an equal—or, in some circumstances, possibly higher—probability of developing mental ill-health as the general population. However, understanding of these issues among athletes and coaches remains largely limited. The perceptions of mental-health problems among 19 elite athletes and 16 coaches were explored using two concurrent three-round Delphi surveys whose responses were compared. Athletes and coaches expressed different opinions and experiences of mental ill-health among elite athletes. However, both groups felt the pressure athletes place on themselves is a significant contributing factor and that obsessional compulsive tendencies and anxiety may be particularly prevalent. While associated stigma was thought to be a barrier to seeking support, both groups felt sport and clinical psychologists would provide the most appropriate support, with coaches playing an important signposting role. Implications for athletes, coaches, and clinical and sport psychologists are explored and suggestions for future research are presented.

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Jan M. Moore, Anna F. Timperio, David A. Crawford, Cate M. Burns and David Cameron-Smith

Jockeys are required to maintain very low body weight and precise weight control during competition. This study examined the weight loss and weight management strategies of professional horseracing jockeys in the state of Victoria, Australia. An anonymous, self-completed questionnaire was administered (55% response rate, n=116). Almost half (43%) reported that maintaining riding weight was difficult or very difficult, with 75% routinely skipping meals. In preparation for racing, 60% reported that they typically required additional weight loss, with 81% restricting food intake in the 24 hours prior to racing. Additionally, sauna-induced sweating (29%) and diuretics (22%) were frequently employed to further aid in weight loss prior to racing. These rapid weight loss methods did not differ between the 51% of jockeys who followed a weight management plan compared to those who did not. The impact of these extreme weight loss practices on riding performance and health remains unknown.