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Robert J. Gregor, W. Lee Childers, Mark A. Lyle and Linda Fetters

Biomechanics is a diverse field of study founded in a vertically integrated body of knowledge, from cells to behavior, with the goal of understanding the function of biological systems using methods in mechanics. Historically, the field lies in the general domain of science, not to be isolated but well integrated with others focused on the study of movement. Using advances in technology as a conduit, specific examples of collaborative research involving biomechanics, motor development, and neuromuscular control are discussed. Challenges in the study of interface control (i.e., hypotheses focused on the neural control of movement, performance enhancement, and injury prevention) are presented in the context of the intellectual interface required among scientists to gain a new understanding of the function of biological systems.

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Hardeep Singh, Mark Lee, Matthew J. Solomito, Christian Merrill and Carl Nissen

Symptomatic spondylolysis/spondylolisthesis is thought to be caused by repetitive lumbar extension. About 8.9% of baseball pitchers that experience back pain will be diagnosed with spondylolysis. Therefore, this study aims to identify and quantify lumbar extension experienced during baseball pitching. It was hypothesized that young pitchers would exhibit less lumbar extension than older pitchers. A total of 187 healthy pitchers were divided into 3 age groups: youth, adolescent, and college. Kinematic data were collected at 250 Hz using a 3-D motion capture system. Lumbar motion was calculated as the difference between upper thoracic motion and pelvic motion over the pitching cycle. Lumbar “hyperextension” was defined as ≥20° past neutral. College pitchers had significantly greater lumbar extension compared with youth and adolescent pitchers at the point of maximum external rotation of the glenohumeral joint during the pitch cycle (−25° [13°], P = .04). For all age groups, lumbar hyperextension was present during the first 66% of the pitch cycle. Most pitchers spent 45% of pitch cycle in ≥30° of lumbar extension. Understanding that lumbar extension and hyperextension are components of the complex, multiplanar motions of the spine associated with baseball pitching can potentially help in both the prevention and management of symptomatic spondylolysis/spondylolisthesis.

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Charlotte Woodcock, Joan L. Duda, Jennifer Cumming, Lee-Ann Sharp and Mark J.G. Holland

Drawing from the experiences of the authors in developing, conducting, and evaluating sport psychology interventions, several considerations are highlighted and recommendations offered for effective psychometric assessment. Using the Test of Performance Strategies (TOPS; Thomas, Murphy, & Hardy, 1999) as a working example, opportunities for bias to undermine a measure’s validity and reliability are discussed with reference to a respondent’s four cognitive processes: (a) comprehension, (b) retrieval, (c) decision-making, and (d) response generation. Further threats to an instrument’s psychometric properties are highlighted in the form of demand characteristics athletes perceive in the environment. With these concerns in mind, several recommendations are made relating to the process of questionnaire administration and how possible compromises to the psychometric soundness of measures used in applied interventions can be minimized.

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Lee-Ann Sharp, Charlotte Woodcock, Mark J.G. Holland, Jennifer Cumming and Joan L. Duda

The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the effectiveness of a mental skills training (MST) program for male youth elite rugby athletes. Three focus groups were held with 21 under-16 male rugby athletes and four male coaches involved in the MST program to examine the quality of service delivery, athlete responses to the MST program, the mental qualities used by athletes, and its perceived influence on athlete performance. Following inductive-deductive content analysis, 40 subcategories and 16 categories emerged. Participants believed the MST program to be an interactive, well-planned program that increased athlete understanding of MST methods and awareness of MST strategies to manage rugby performance. Athletes thought it important that their coaches develop a greater knowledge and understanding of MST methods. Finally, athletes perceived the MST skills and methods they learnt through the MST program were transferable to other sports and areas of their life outside of rugby (e.g., school).

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Lee J. Moore, Mark R. Wilson, Samuel J. Vine, Adam H. Coussens and Paul Freeman

The present research examined the immediate impact of challenge and threat states on golf performance in both real competition and a laboratory-based task. In Study 1, 199 experienced golfers reported their evaluations of competition demands and personal coping resources before a golf competition. Evaluating the competition as a challenge (i.e., sufficient resources to cope with demands) was associated with superior performance. In Study 2, 60 experienced golfers randomly received challenge or threat manipulation instructions and then performed a competitive golf-putting task. Challenge and threat states were successfully manipulated and the challenge group outperformed the threat group. Furthermore, the challenge group reported less anxiety, more facilitative interpretations of anxiety, less conscious processing, and displayed longer quiet eye durations. However, these variables failed to mediate the group–performance relationship. These studies demonstrate the importance of considering preperformance psychophysiological states when examining the influence of competitive pressure on motor performance.

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Lee J. Moore, Samuel J. Vine, Mark R. Wilson and Paul Freeman

Competitive situations often hinge on one pressurized moment. In these situations, individuals’ psychophysiological states determine performance, with a challenge state associated with better performance than a threat state. But what can be done if an individual experiences a threat state? This study examined one potential solution: arousal reappraisal. Fifty participants received either arousal reappraisal or control instructions before performing a pressurized, single-trial, motor task. Although both groups initially displayed cardiovascular responses consistent with a threat state, the reappraisal group displayed a cardiovascular response more reflective of a challenge state (relatively higher cardiac output and/or lower total peripheral resistance) after the reappraisal manipulation. Furthermore, despite performing similarly at baseline, the reappraisal group outperformed the control group during the pressurized task. The results demonstrate that encouraging individuals to interpret heightened physiological arousal as a tool that can help maximize performance can result in more adaptive cardiovascular responses and motor performance under pressure.

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Stefano Montanari, Mehmet A. S¸ahin, Ben J. Lee, Sam D. Blacker and Mark E.T. Willems

Supplementation with anthocyanin-rich blackcurrant increases blood flow, cardiac output, and stroke volume at rest. It is not known whether cardiovascular responses can be replicated over longer timeframes in fed trained cyclists. In a randomized, double-blind, crossover design, 13 male trained cyclists (age 39 ± 10 years, V˙O2max 55.3 ± 6.7 ml·kg−1·min−1) consumed two doses of New Zealand blackcurrant (NZBC) extract (300 and 600 mg/day for 1 week). Cardiovascular parameters were measured during rest and submaximal cycling (65% V˙O2max) on day 1 (D1), D4, and D7. Data were analyzed with an RM ANOVA using dose (placebo vs. 300 vs. 600 mg/day) by time point (D1, D4, and D7). Outcomes from placebo were averaged to determine the coefficient of variation within our experimental model, and 95% confidence interval (CI) was examined for differences between placebo and NZBC. There were no differences in cardiovascular responses at rest between conditions and between days. During submaximal exercise, no positive changes were observed on D1 and D4 after consuming NZBC extract. On D7, intake of 600 mg increased stroke volume (3.08 ml, 95% CI [−2.08, 8.26]; d = 0.16, p = .21), cardiac output (0.39 L/min, 95% CI [−1.39, .60]; d = 0.14, p = .40) (both +2.5%), and lowered total peripheral resistance by 6.5% (−0.46 mmHg·min/ml, 95% CI [−1.80, .89]; d = 0.18, p = .46). However, these changes were trivial and fell within the coefficient of variation of our study design. Therefore, we can conclude that NZBC extract was not effective in enhancing cardiovascular function during rest and submaximal exercise in endurance-trained fed cyclists.

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Ilona I. McMullan, Brendan P. Bunting, Lee Smith, Ai Koyanagi and Mark A. Tully

Research suggests that physical activity (PA) has many health benefits for an aging population. Evidence exploring the association between PA and vision is limited. This study includes the measures of self-reported PA (International Physical Activity Questionnaire) and self-rated vision at three points in time over a 6-year period used in the Irish Longitudinal study of Ageing, a cohort of community-dwelling older adults (50 years or older). A path analysis found that PA was indirectly associated with vision over 6 years controlling for age, sex, marital status, employment, education, depression (Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale), self-reported general health, cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes, eye disease (e.g., glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, macular degeneration, cataract), and disabilities associated with activities of daily living. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship over time and generalize the findings.

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Katherine Lee, James Onate, Samar McCann, Tamerah Hunt, Wilbert Turner and Mark Merrick

Clinical Scenario:

In wrestling, athletes often support a large amount of weight on their heads or are forced into extreme ranges of motion. These suboptimal movement conditions lead to a high prevalence of neck injuries in wrestlers. A large portion of the work done by the cervical musculature in wrestling is theorized to be eccentric or isometric types of contractions. Strengthening of these cervical muscles is clinically considered to play a vital role in being competitive on the wrestling mat. The cervical stability provided by strengthening these muscles may also play a part in injury prevention among wrestlers.

Focused Clinical Question:

Does increased cervical strength lead to a decreased risk of injury in wrestling?

Summary of Search, “Best Evidence” Appraised, and Key Findings:

The literature was searched for studies of level 4 evidence or higher using the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine level of evidence system that investigated the relationship between cervical strength and injury risk in wrestling. No studies were found comparing cervical strength to injury risk in wrestling, but 2 related studies were found and have been included in this critically appraised topic.

Clinical Bottom Line:

There is poor evidence to support a relationship between cervical strength and injury risk in wrestling.

Strength of Recommendation:

There is grade C evidence to indicate that increased cervical strength decreases the risk of injury in wrestling.

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Rianne Costello, Mark E.T. Willems, Stephen D. Myers, Fiona Myers, Nathan A. Lewis, Ben J. Lee and Sam D. Blacker

New Zealand blackcurrant (NZBC) contains anthocyanins, known to moderate blood flow and display anti-inflammatory properties that may improve recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. The authors examined whether NZBC extract supplementation enhances recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage after a half-marathon race. Following a randomized, double-blind, independent groups design, 20 (eight women) recreational runners (age 30 ± 6 years, height 1.73 ± 0.74 m, body mass 68.5 ± 7.8 kg, half-marathon finishing time 1:56:33 ± 0:18:08 hr:min:s) ingested either two 300-mg/day capsules of NZBC extract (CurraNZ) or a visually matched placebo, for 7 days prior to and 2 days following a half-marathon. Countermovement jump performance variables, urine interleukin-6, and perceived muscle soreness and fatigue were measured pre, post, and at 24 and 48 hr after the half-marathon and analyzed using a mixed linear model with statistical significance set a priori at p < .05. The countermovement jump performance variables were reduced immediately post-half-marathon (p < .05), with all returning to pre-half-marathon levels by 48 hr, except the concentric and eccentric peak force and eccentric duration, with no difference in response between groups (p > .05). Urine interleukin-6 increased 48-hr post-half-marathon in the NZBC group only (p < .01) and remained unchanged compared with pre-half-marathon levels in the placebo group (p > .05). Perceived muscle soreness and fatigue increased immediately post-half-marathon (p < .01) and returned to pre-half-marathon levels by 48 hr, with no difference between groups (p > .05). Supplementation with NZBC extract had no effect on the recovery of countermovement jump variables and perceptions of muscle soreness or fatigue following a half-marathon in recreational runners.