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Sport Coaching and Intellectual Disability

Jan Burns

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Sports Classification and Athletes With Intellectual Disabilities: Measuring Health Status Using a Questionnaire Based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health

Lorenna Tussis, Suzie Lemmey, and Jan Burns

Most people with intellectual disabilities have comorbid health conditions, which will impact optimization of sporting performance. Classification is used in Paralympic events to ensure that those with similar levels of functional ability compete fairly against each other. An evidence-based approach needs to be developed for athletes with intellectual disabilities to be classified in relation to their overall functional capacity into competition groups of similar ability. This research builds on previous work using the taxonomy of The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to group athletes with intellectual disabilities into comparable competition groups as an approach to Paralympic classification. Three groups of athletes—Virtus, Special Olympics, and Down syndrome—are compared using the ICF questionnaire indicating functional health status in relation to sporting performance. The questionnaire was found to discriminate between athletes with Down syndrome and other athletes, and an approach to using a cutoff score to develop competition classes is explored.

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Public Attitudes Toward People With Intellectual Disabilities After Viewing Olympic or Paralympic Performance

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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Classification and Intellectual Disabilities: An Investigation of the Factors That Predict the Performance of Athletes With Intellectual Disability

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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An Investigation of Athletes’ and Coaches’ Perceptions of Mental Ill-Health in Elite Athletes

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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Weight Management and Weight Loss Strategies of Professional Jockeys

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.

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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.