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Corrado Lupo, Laura Capranica and Antonio Tessitore

Context:

The assessment of internal training load (ITL) using the session rating of perceived exertion (session RPE) has been demonstrated to provide valuable information, also in team sports. Nevertheless, no studies have investigated the use of this method during youth water polo training.

Purpose:

To evaluate youth water polo training, showing the corresponding level of reliability of the session-RPE method.

Methods:

Thirteen male youth water polo players (age 15.6 ± 0.5 y, height 1.80 ± 0.06 m, body mass 72.7 ± 7.8 kg) were monitored during 8 training sessions (80 individual training sessions) over 10 d. The Edwards summated heart-rate-zone method was used as a reference measure of ITL; the session-RPE rating was obtained using CR-10 scale modified by Foster. The Pearson product–moment was applied to regress the Edwards heart-rate-zone method against CR-10 session RPE for each training session and individual data.

Results:

Analyses reported overall high (r = .88, R 2 = .78) and significant (P < .001) correlations between the Edwards heart-rate and session-RPE methods. Significant correlations were also shown for each training session (r range .69–.92, R 2 range .48–.85, P < .05) and individual data (r range .76–.98, R 2 range .58–.97, P < .05).

Discussion:

The results confirmed that the session-RPE method as an easy and reliable tool to evaluate ITL in youth water polo, allowing coaches to efficiently monitor their training plans.

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Laura Capranica and Mindy L. Millard-Stafford

A prevailing theory (and practical application) is that elite performance requires early childhood skill development and training across various domains, including sport. Debate continues whether children specializing early (ie, training/competition in a single sport) have true advantage compared with those who sample various sports early and specialize in a single sport later (adolescence). Retrospective data and case studies suggest either model yields elite status depending upon the sport category (ie, situational: ball games, martial arts, fencing; quantitative: track and feld, swimming, skiing; or qualitative: gymnastics, diving, figure skating). However, potential risks of early specialization include greater attrition and adverse physical/emotional health outcomes. With the advent of the IOC Youth Olympic Games, increased emphasis on global youth competition has unknown implications but also represents a potential platform for investigation. Modification of youth competition formats should be based upon multidisciplinary research on psycho-physiological responses, and technical-tactical behaviors during competition. The assumption that a simple scaled-down approach of adult competitions facilitates the development of technical/tactical skills of youth athletes is not necessarily substantiated with field-based research. Relatively little evidence exists regarding the long-term effects of rigorous training and competitive schedules on children in specific sports. It is clear that more prospective studies are needed to understand the training dose that optimally develops adaptations in youth without inducing dropout, overtraining syndrome, and/or injury. Such an approach should be sport specific as well as gender based. Until such evidence exists, coaches and sport administrators will continue to rely upon their sport-specific dogma to influence programmatic development of our most vulnerable population.

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Laura Capranica, Monica Tiberi, Francesco Figura and Wayne H. Osness

This study compared functional fitness scores of American and Italian older adults on the AAHPERD test battery for adults over 60 years old. Sedentary participants (N = 186, age 60–79 years) undertook the 6 AAHPERD test items: Between American and Italian men, no statistically significant difference was found for coordination and endurance. American men scored better on flexibility and strength, whereas Italian men scored better on body mass index (BMI) and agility. Between American and Italian women, no statistically significant difference was found for BMI and agility. American women scored better on coordination and endurance, whereas Italian women scored better on flexibility and strength. The data suggest that the AAHPERD test battery is an appropriate tool for assessing and comparing functional fitness levels of older adults in different societies.

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Carlo Minganti, Laura Capranica, Romain Meeusen and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose:

The aim of the present study was to assess the effectiveness of perceived exertion (session-RPE) in quantifying internal training load in divers.

Methods:

Six elite divers, three males (age, 25.7 ± 6.1 y; stature, 1.71 ± 0.06 m; body mass, 66.7 ± 1.2 kg) and three females (age, 25.3 ± 0.6 y; stature, 1.63 ± 0.05 m; body mass, 58.3 ± 4.0 kg) were monitored during six training sessions within a week, which included 1 m and 3 m springboard dives. The Edwards summated heart rate zone method was used as a reference measure; the session-RPE rating was obtained using the CR-10 Borg scale modified by Foster and the 100 mm visual analog scale (VAS).

Results:

Significant correlations were found between CR-10 and VAS session-RPE and the Edwards summated heart rate zone method for training sessions (r range: 0.71–0.96; R 2 range: 0.50–0.92; P < 0.01) and for divers (r range: 0.67–0.96; R 2 range: 0.44–0.92; P < 0.01).

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that session-RPE can be useful for monitoring internal training load in divers.

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Caterina Pesce, Lucio Cereatti, Rita Casella, Carlo Baldari and Laura Capranica

This study investigated the visual attention of older expert orienteers and older adults not practicing activities with high attentional and psychomotor demands, and considered whether prolonged practice of orienteering may counteract the age-related deterioration of visual attentional performance both at rest and under acute exercise. In two discriminative reaction time experiments, performed both at rest and under submaximal physical workload, visual attention was cued by means of spatial cues of different sizes followed, at different stimulus-onset asynchronies, by compound stimuli with local and global target features. Orienteers, as compared to nonathletes, showed a faster reaction speed and a complex pattern of attentional differences depending on the time constraints of the attentional task, the demands on endogenous attentional control, and the presence or absence of a concomitant effortful motor task. Results suggest that older expert orienteers have developed attentional skills that outweigh, at least at rest, the age-related deficits of visual attentional focusing.

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Laura Capranica, Maria Francesca Piacentini, Shona Halson, Kathryn H. Myburgh, Etsuko Ogasawara and Mindy Millard-Stafford

Sport is recognized as playing a relevant societal role to promote education, health, intercultural dialogue, and the individual development, regardless of an individual’s gender, race, age, ability, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background. Yet, it was not until the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London that every country’s delegation included a female competitor. The gender gap in sport, although closing, remains, due to biological differences affecting performance, but it is also influenced by reduced opportunity and sociopolitical factors that influence full female participation across a range of sports around the world. Until the cultural environment is equitable, scientific discussion related to physiological differences using methods that examine progression in male and female world-record performances is limited. This commentary is intended to provide a forum to discuss issues underlying gender differences in sport performance from a global perspective and acknowledge the influence of cultural and sociopolitical factors that continue to ultimately affect female performance.

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Giulia De Ioannon, Giuseppe Cibelli, Sergio Mignardi, Agnese Antonelli, Laura Capranica and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose:

To evaluate the pacing strategy, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and mood during a 78.1-km solo ultraendurance open-water swim.

Methods:

Before and after the event, anthropometric parameters, cortisol, and the profile of mood state (POMS) of 1 male athlete (age 48 y, height 172 cm, body mass 68 kg, body fat 7.2%, athletic achievement: Italian record holder of the Channel Swim) were ascertained. Every 3 h during the event, average swimming speed (SS), stroke rate, stroke length (SL), and RPE were recorded.

Results:

The athlete completed the event in 23:44 h:min. Compared with the first 3 h of swimming, decreases in SS (−33%) and SL (−25%) were observed between 18 h and 21 h. Thereafter, the athlete increased SS (+41%) and SL (+17%) between 21 h and the end. RPE steadily increased from the beginning to the last 6 h of swimming. Cortisol showed a 23-fold increase. After the event, POMS showed a 500% increase in fatigue, 44% decrease in tension, and 77% decrease in vigor.

Conclusion:

For the first time ever an athlete crossed the Adriatic Sea. This case study shows that the athlete adopted a variable pacing strategy to complete 78 km. Despite the athlete perceiving his effort at maximum during the last 6 h, the observed increases in SS at the end of the event might substantiate his high potential motivation to accomplish this challenging and unique event.

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Erika Casolino, Cristina Cortis, Corrado Lupo, Salvatore Chiodo, Carlo Minganti and Laura Capranica

Purpose:

To anticipate outstanding athletic outcomes, the selection process of elite athletes simultaneously considers psychophysiological and technical parameters. This study aimed to investigate whether selected and nonselected athletes for the Italian national taekwondo team could be discriminated by means of sportspecific performances and psychophysiological responses to training.

Participants:

5 established Italian national athletes and 20 elite Italian taekwondo black belt athletes (9 women, 16 men; age 23.0 ± 3.1 y; body mass 67.0 ± 12.1 kg).

Methods:

To update the Italian national-team roster, the 20 elite athletes participated in a 1-wk selection camp (7 training sessions). Selected athletes (n = 10) joined established national athletes during the following 3-wk national training period (7 training sessions/wk). During the 1-wk selection camp, differences (P < .05) between selected and nonselected athletes in performances, heart-rate responses, blood lactate accumulation [La], subjective ratings of perceived exertion (session RPE), and mood were examined. During the 3-wk national training period, differences (P < .05) in mood between selected and established national athletes were investigated.

Results:

With respect to nonselected athletes, selected athletes responded better to training in terms of session RPE (P = .047) and [La] (P = .046). No difference in performance and mood between subgroups emerged. After the 3-wk national training period, differences (P = .035) emerged for confusion, with decreases in the established national athletes and increases for recently selected athletes.

Conclusions:

Session RPE and [La] seem to be more effective than psychological measures in discriminating between elite taekwondo athletes. Evaluation of mood could be effective in monitoring athletes’ response to national training.

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Simone Ciaccioni, Laura Capranica, Roberta Forte, Helmi Chaabene, Caterina Pesce and Giancarlo Condello

This study aimed to investigate the effects of a 4-month judo training (1 hr session, biweekly) on physical and mental health of older adults (69.7 ± 4.2 years). Participants (N = 30) were assigned to a judo novice practitioners group (n = 16) or a control group (n = 14), which did not receive any training. Before and after the program, they underwent anthropometric (body mass index and waist and hip circumferences); functional fitness (upper and lower body flexibility and strength, coordination); and psychological assessments (perceived physical and mental health, body image, and fear of falling). The judo group showed reductions of waist circumference (Δ = −1%, d = 0.2) and improvements for lower and upper body flexibility (Δ = +69%, d = 0.4 and Δ = +126%, d = 0.5, respectively) and strength (Δ = +12%, d = 0.6 and Δ = +31%, d = 1.6, respectively). The control group showed a decline in lower body strength (Δ = −12%, d = 0.8). Psychological variables did not reveal statistically significant effects. Judo seems beneficial for improving anthropometric and functional fitness variables, relevant aspects of successful aging.

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Anna Valenzano, Fiorenzo Moscatelli, Antonio Ivano Triggiani, Laura Capranica, Giulia De Ioannon, Maria Francesca Piacentini, Sergio Mignardi, Giovanni Messina, Stefano Villani and Giuseppe Cibelli

Purpose:

To evaluate the effect of a solo ultraendurance open-water swim on autonomic and nonautonomic control of heart rate (HR).

Methods:

A male athlete (age 48 y, height 172 cm, body mass 68 kg, BMI 23 kg/m2) underwent HR-variability (HRV) and circulating catecholamine evaluations at different times before and after an ultraendurance swim crossing the Adriatic Sea from Italy to Albania. HRV was measured in 5-min segments and quantified by time and frequency domain. Circulating catecholamines were estimated by salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) assay.

Results:

The athlete completed 78.1 km in 23:44 h:min. After arrival, sAA levels had increased by 102.6%. Time- and frequency-domain HRV indexes decreased, as well (mean RR interval, −29,7%; standard deviation of normal mean RR interval, −63,1%; square root of mean squared successive differences between normal-to-normal RR intervals, −49.3%; total power, −74.3%; low frequency, −78.0%; high frequency, −76.4%), while HR increased by 41.8%. At 16-h recovery, sAA had returned to preevent values, while a stable tachycardia was accompanied by reduced HRV measures.

Conclusion:

To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study reporting cardiac autonomic adjustments to an extreme and challenging ultraendurance open-water swim. The findings confirmed that the autonomic drives depend on exercise efforts. Since HRV changes did not mirror the catecholamine response 16 h postevent, the authors assume that the ultraendurance swim differently influenced cardiac function by both adaptive autonomic and nonautonomic patterns.