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Blake D. McLean, Kevin White, Christopher J. Gore, and Justin Kemp

Purpose: There is debate as to which environmental intervention produces the most benefit for team sport athletes, particularly comparing heat and altitude. This quasi-experimental study aimed to compare blood volume (BV) responses with heat and altitude training camps in Australian footballers. Methods: The BV of 7 professional Australian footballers (91.8 [10.5] kg, 191.8 [10.1] cm) was measured throughout 3 consecutive spring/summer preseasons. During each preseason, players participated in altitude (year 1 and year 2) and heat (year 3) environmental training camps. Year 1 and year 2 altitude camps were in November/December in the United States, whereas the year 3 heat camp was in February/March in Australia after a full exposure to summer heat. BV, red cell volume, and plasma volume (PV) were measured at least 3 times during each preseason. Results: Red cell volume increased substantially following altitude in both year 1 (d = 0.67) and year 2 (d = 1.03), before returning to baseline 4 weeks postaltitude. Immediately following altitude, concurrent decreases in PV were observed during year 1 (d = −0.40) and year 2 (d = −0.98). With spring/summer training in year 3, BV and PV were substantially higher in January than temporally matched postaltitude measurements during year 1 (BV: d = −0.93, PV: d = −1.07) and year 2 (BV: d = −1.99, PV: d = −2.25), with year 3 total BV, red cell volume, and PV not changing further despite the 6-day heat intervention. Conclusions: We found greater BV after training throughout spring/summer conditions, compared with interrupting spring/summer exposure to train at altitude in the cold, with no additional benefits observed from a heat camp following spring/summer training.

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Benita J. Lalor, Shona L. Halson, Jacqueline Tran, Justin G. Kemp, and Stuart J. Cormack

Purpose: To assess relationships between objective sleep characteristics, external training loads, and subjective ratings of well-being in elite Australian football (AF) players. Methods: A total of 38 elite male AF players recorded objective sleep characteristics over a 15-day period using an activity monitor. External load was assessed during main field sessions, and ratings of well-being were provided each morning. Canonical correlation analysis was used to create canonical dimensions for each variable set (sleep, well-being, and external load). Relationships between dimensions representing sleep, external load, and well-being were quantified using Pearson r. Results: Canonical correlations were moderate between pretraining sleep and external training load (r = .32–.49), pretraining sleep and well-being (r = .32), and well-being and posttraining sleep (r = .36). Moderate to strong correlations were observed between dimensions representing external training load and posttraining sleep (r = .31–.67), and well-being and external training load (r = .32–.67). Player load and Player load 2D (PL2D) showed the greatest association to pretraining and posttraining objective sleep characteristics and well-being. Fragmented sleep was associated with players completing the following training with a higher PL2D. Conclusions: Maximum speed, player load, and PL2D were the common associations between objective sleep characteristics and well-being in AF players. Improving pretraining sleep quality and quantity may have a positive impact on AF players’ well-being and movement strategy during field sessions. Following training sessions that have high maximum speed and PL2D, the increased requirement for sleep should be considered by ensuring that subsequent sessions do not start earlier than required.

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Corey W. Joseph, Elizabeth J. Bradshaw, Justin Kemp, and Ross A. Clark

A number of methods are used to measure lower extremity musculoskeletal stiffness, but there is a paucity of research examining the reliability of these techniques. Therefore, we investigated the reliability of vertical, leg, knee, and ankle stiffness during overground running and hopping in 20 active men. Participants were required to run on a 10 m overground runway at 3.83 m/s (actual; 3.35 ± 0.12 m/s) and to hop in place at 2.2 Hz (actual; 2.37 ± 0.03 Hz), and at a self-selected frequency (actual; 2.05 ± 0.12 Hz) and at 2.2 Hz (actual; 2.39 ± 0.04 Hz). Reliability was determined using the intraclass correlation coefficient, coefficient of variation, mean differences, and Cohen’s effect sizes. There was good reliability for vertical stiffness, moderate reliability for leg stiffness, and poor reliability for knee and ankle stiffness during the running task. Similar results were observed during the 2.2 Hz hopping tasks, with good reliability displayed for vertical stiffness and poor reliability for ankle and knee stiffness. In conclusion, our results suggest that vertical stiffness is a reliable measure when running at 3.83 m/s and hopping at 2.2 Hz.

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Benita J. Lalor, Jacqueline Tran, Shona L. Halson, Justin G. Kemp, and Stuart J. Cormack

Purpose: To determine the impact of the quality and quantity of sleep during an international flight on subsequent objective sleep characteristics, training and match-day load, self-reported well-being, and perceptions of jet lag of elite female cricketers during an International Cricket Council Women’s T20 World Cup. Methods: In-flight and tournament objective sleep characteristics of 11 elite female cricketers were assessed using activity monitors. Seated in business class, players traveled west from Melbourne, Australia, to Chennai, India. The outbound flight departed Melbourne at 3:30 AM with a stopover in Dubai for 2 hours. The arrival time in Chennai was 8:10 PM local time (1:40 AM in Melbourne). The total travel time was 19 hours 35 minutes. Perceptual ratings of jet lag, well-being, and training and competition load were collected. To determine the impact of in-flight sleep on tournament measures, a median split was used to create subsamples based on (1) in-flight sleep quantity and (2) in-flight sleep quality (2 groups: higher vs lower). Spearman correlation coefficients were calculated to assess the bivariate associations between sleep measures, self-reported well-being, perceptual measures of jet lag, and internal training and match-day load. Results: Mean duration and efficiency of in-flight sleep bouts were 4.72 hours and 87.45%, respectively. Aggregated in-flight sleep duration was 14.64 + 3.56 hours. Players with higher in-flight sleep efficiency reported higher ratings for fatigue (ie, lower perceived fatigue) during the tournament period. Tournament sleep duration was longer, and bed and wake times were earlier compared with habitual. Compared with other nights during the tournament, sleep duration was shorter following matches. Conclusions: Maximizing in-flight sleep quality and quantity appears to have implications for recovery and sleep exhibited during competition. Sleep duration was longer than habitual except for the night of a match, which suggests that T20 matches may disrupt sleep duration.

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Peter D. Kupcis, Gary J. Slater, Cathryn L. Pruscino, and Justin G. Kemp

Purpose:

The effect of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) ingestion on prerace hydration status and on 2000 m ergometer performance in elite lightweight rowers was examined using a randomized, cross-over, double-blinded design.

Methods:

To simulate body mass (BM) management strategies common to lightweight rowing, oarsmen reduced BM by approx. 4% in the 24 h preceding the trials, and, in the 2 h before performance, undertook nutritional recovery consisting of mean 43.2 kJ/kg, 2.2 g of CHO per kilogram, 31.8 mg of Na+ per kilogram, 24.3 mL of H2O per kilogram, and NaHCO3 (0.3 g of NaHCO3 per kilogram BM) or placebo (PL; 0.15 g of corn flour per kilogram BM) at 70 to 90 min before racing.

Results:

At 25 min before performance, NaHCO3 had increased blood pH (7.48 ± 0.02 vs PL: 7.41 ± 0.03, P = .005) and bicarbonate concentrations (29.1 ± 1.8 vs PL: 23.9 ± 1.6 mmol/L, P < .001), whereas BM, urine specific gravity, and plasma volume changes were similar between trials. Rowing ergometer times were similar between trials (NaHCO3: 397.8 ± 12.6; PL: 398.6 ± 13.8 s, P = .417), whereas posttest bicarbonate (11.6 ± 2.3 vs 9.4 ± 1.8 mmol/L, P = .003) and lactate concentration increases (13.4 ± 1.7 vs 11.9 ± 1.9 mmol/L, P = .001) were greater with NaHCO3.

Conclusion:

Sodium bicarbonate did not further enhance rehydration or performance in lightweight rowers when undertaking recommended post-weigh-in nutritional recovery strategies.

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Blake D. McLean, David Buttifant, Christopher J. Gore, Kevin White, Carsten Liess, and Justin Kemp

Purpose:

Little research has been done on the physiological and performance effects of altitude training on team-sport athletes. Therefore, this study examined changes in 2000-m time-trial running performance (TT), hemoglobin mass (Hbmass), and intramuscular carnosine content of elite Australian Football (AF) players after a preseason altitude camp.

Methods:

Thirty elite AF players completed 19 days of living and training at either moderate altitude (~2130 m; ALT, n = 21) or sea level (CON, n = 9). TT performance and Hbmass were assessed preintervention (PRE) and postintervention (POST1) in both groups and at 4 wk after returning to sea level (POST2) in ALT only.

Results:

Improvement in TT performance after altitude was likely 1.5% (± 4.8–90%CL) greater in ALT than in CON, with an individual responsiveness of 0.8%. Improvements in TT were maintained at POST2 in ALT. Hbmass after altitude was very likely increased in ALT compared with CON (2.8% ± 3.5%), with an individual responsiveness of 1.3%. Hbmass returned to baseline at POST2. Intramuscular carnosine did not change in either gastrocnemius or soleus from PRE to POST1.

Conclusions:

A preseason altitude camp improved TT performance and Hbmass in elite AF players to a magnitude similar to that demonstrated by elite endurance athletes undertaking altitude training. The individual responsiveness of both TT and Hbmass was approximately half the group mean effect, indicating that most players gained benefit. The maintenance of running performance for 4 wk, despite Hbmass returning to baseline, suggests that altitude training is a valuable preparation for AF players leading into the competitive season.

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Benita J. Lalor, Shona L. Halson, Jacqueline Tran, Justin G. Kemp, and Stuart J. Cormack

Purpose: To assess the impact of match-start time and days relative to match compared with the habitual sleep characteristics of elite Australian Football (AF) players. Methods: 45 elite male AF players were assessed during the preseason (habitual) and across 4 home matches during the season. Players wore an activity monitor the night before (−1), night of (0), 1 night after (+1), and 2 nights (+2) after each match and completed a self-reported rating of sleep quality. A 2-way ANOVA with Tukey post hoc was used to determine differences in sleep characteristics between match-start times and days relative to the match. Two-way nested ANOVA was conducted to examine differences between competition and habitual phases. Effect size ± 90% confidence interval (ES ± 90% CI) was calculated to quantify the magnitude of pairwise differences. Results: Differences observed in sleep-onset latency (ES = 0.11 ± 0.16), sleep rating (ES = 0.08 ± 0.14), and sleep duration (ES = 0.08 ± 0.01) between competition and habitual periods were trivial. Sleep efficiency was almost certainly higher during competition than habitual, but this was not reflected in the subjective rating of sleep quality. Conclusions: Elite AF competition does not cause substantial disruption to sleep characteristics compared with habitual sleep. While match-start time has some impact on sleep variables, it appears that the match itself is more of a disruption than the start time. Subjective ratings of sleep from well-being questionnaires appear limited in their ability to accurately provide an indication of sleep quality.