Athletic populations require high-precision body composition assessments to identify true change. Least significant change determines technical error via same-day consecutive tests but does not integrate biological variation, which is more relevant for longitudinal monitoring. The aim of this study was to assess biological variation using least significant change measures from body composition methods used on athletes, including surface anthropometry (SA), air displacement plethysmography (BOD POD), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and bioelectrical impedance spectroscopy (BIS). Thirty-two athletic males (age = 31 ± 7 years; stature = 183 ± 7 cm; mass = 92 ± 10 kg) underwent three testing sessions over 2 days using four methods. Least significant change values were calculated from differences in Day 1 Test 1 versus Day 1 Test 2 (same-day precision), as well as Day 1 Test 1 versus Day 2 (consecutive-day precision). There was high agreement between same-day and consecutive-day fat mass and fat-free mass measurements for all methods. Consecutive-day precision error in comparison with the same-day precision error was 50% higher for fat mass estimates from BIS (3,607 vs. 2,331 g), 25% higher from BOD POD (1,943 vs. 1,448 g) and DXA (1,615 vs. 1,204 g), but negligible from SA (442 vs. 586 g). Consecutive-day precision error for fat-free mass was 50% higher from BIS (3,966 vs. 2,276 g) and SA (1,159 vs. 568 g) and 25% higher from BOD POD (1,894 vs. 1,450 g) and DXA (1,967 vs. 1,461 g) than the same-day precision error. Precision error in consecutive-day analysis considers both technical error and biological variation, enhancing the identification of small, yet significant changes in body composition of resistance-trained male athletes. Given that change in physique is likely to be small in this population, the use of DXA, BOD POD, or SA is recommended.
Ava Farley, Gary J. Slater and Karen Hind
Mathew Hillier, Louise Sutton, Lewis James, Dara Mojtahedi, Nicola Keay and Karen Hind
The practice of rapid weight loss (RWL) in mixed martial arts (MMA) is an increasing concern but data remain scarce. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence, magnitude, methods, and influencers of RWL in professional and amateur MMA athletes. MMA athletes (N = 314; 287 men and 27 women) across nine weight categories (strawweight to heavyweight), completed a validated questionnaire adapted for this sport. Sex-specific data were analyzed, and subgroup comparisons were made between athletes competing at professional and amateur levels. Most athletes purposefully reduced body weight for competition (men: 97.2%; women: 100%). The magnitude of RWL in 1 week prior to weigh-in was significantly greater for professional athletes compared with those competing at amateur level (men: 5.9% vs. 4.2%; women: 5.0% vs. 2.1% of body weight; p < .05). In the 24 hr preceding weigh-in, the magnitude of RWL was greater at professional than amateur level in men (3.7% vs. 2.5% of body weight; p < .05). Most athletes “always” or “sometimes” used water loading (72.9%), restricting fluid intake (71.3%), and sweat suits (55.4%) for RWL. Coaches were cited as the primary source of influence on RWL practices (men: 29.3%; women: 48.1%). There is a high reported prevalence of RWL in MMA, at professional and amateur levels. Our findings, constituting the largest inquiry to date, call for urgent action from MMA organizations to safeguard the health and well-being of athletes competing in this sport.
Kevin Till, Ben Jones, John O’Hara, Matthew Barlow, Amy Brightmore, Matthew Lees and Karen Hind
To compare the body size and 3-compartment body composition between academy and senior professional rugby league players using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).
Academy (age 18.1 ± 1.1 y, n = 34) and senior (age 26.2 ± 4.6 y, n = 63) rugby league players received 1 total-body DXA scan. Height, body mass, and body-fat percentage alongside total and regional fat mass, lean mass, and bone mineral content (BMC) were compared. Independent t tests with Cohen d effect sizes and multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA), controlling for height and body mass, with partial eta-squared (η2) effect sizes, were used to compare total and regional body composition.
Senior players were taller (183.2 ± 5.8 vs 179.2 ± 5.7 cm, P = .001, d = 0.70) and heavier (96.5 ± 9.3 vs 86.5 ± 9.0 kg, P < .001, d = 1.09) with lower body-fat percentage (16.3 ± 3.7 vs 18.0 ± 3.7%, P = .032, d = 0.46) than academy players. MANCOVA identified significant overall main effects for total and regional body composition between academy and senior players. Senior players had lower total fat mass (P < .001, η 2 = 0.15), greater total lean mass (P < .001, η 2 = 0.14), and greater total BMC (P = .001, η 2 = 0.12) than academy players. For regional sites, academy players had significantly greater fat mass at the legs (P < .001, η 2 = 0.29) than senior players.
The lower age, height, body mass, and BMC of academy players suggest that these players are still developing musculoskeletal characteristics. Gradual increases in lean mass and BMC while controlling fat mass is an important consideration for practitioners working with academy rugby league players, especially in the lower body.
Adam J. Zemski, Shelley E. Keating, Elizabeth M. Broad, Damian J. Marsh, Karen Hind and Gary J. Slater
During preseason training, rugby union (RU) athletes endeavor to enhance physical performance characteristics that are aligned with on-field success. Specific physique traits are associated with performance; therefore body composition assessment is routinely undertaken in elite environments. This study aimed to quantify preseason physique changes in elite RU athletes with unique morphology and divergent ethnicity. Twenty-two White and Polynesian professional RU athletes received dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry assessments at the beginning and conclusion of an 11-week preseason. Interactions between on-field playing position and ethnicity in body composition adaptations were explored, and the least significant change model was used to evaluate variations at the individual level. There were no combined interaction effects with the variables position and ethnicity and any body composition measure. After accounting for baseline body composition, Whites gained more lean mass during the preseason than Polynesians (2,425 ± 1,303 g vs. 1,115 ± 1,169 g; F = 5.4, p = .03). Significant main effects of time were found for whole body and all regional measures with fat mass decreasing (F = 31.1–52.0, p < .01), and lean mass increasing (F = 12.0–40.4, p < .01). Seventeen athletes (nine White and eight Polynesian) had a reduction in fat mass, and eight athletes (six White and two Polynesian) increased lean mass. This study describes significant and meaningful physique changes in elite RU athletes during a preseason period. Given the individualized approach applied to athletes in regard to nutrition and conditioning interventions, a similar approach to that used in this study is recommended to assess physique changes in this population.
Karen Hind, David Torgerson, Jim McKenna, Rebecca Ashby, Andy Daly-Smith, John Truscott, Heather MacKay and Andrew Jennings
Developing Interventions for Children’s Exercise (DICE) is an initiative aimed at determining effective schoolbased exercise programs. To assess feasibility, we conducted a pilot study of exercise sessions which varied in duration and frequency.
Exercise interventions were delivered to Year 3 pupils (age 7–8 years; n = 73) in primary schools within Yorkshire, UK. Evaluations were conducted using focus group sessions, questionnaires and observations.
The study revealed positive aspects of all interventions, including favorable effects on children’s concentration during lessons and identified the value of incorporation of the DICE concept into curriculum lessons. Children appeared enthused and reported well-being and enjoyment. Areas requiring attention were the need for appropriate timetabling of sessions and ensuring the availability of space.
The concept and sessions were well-accepted by teachers who confirmed their full support of any future implementation There appears to be potential for the encouragement and empowerment of teachers to support physical activity and healthy school environments, and to take an interest in the health of their pupils. Ultimately, these findings should assist in the design of successful exercise interventions in the school setting.