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Luca Puce, Ilaria Pallecchi, Lucio Marinelli, Maria May, Laura Mori, Piero Ruggeri, and Marco Bove

Context: Kinesio Taping (KT) produces several clinical effects, including pain relief, edema absorption, and improved muscle performance. When applied in the insertion to origin mode, it is claimed to inhibit excessive muscle contractions. Objective: Investigate whether KT applied in the insertion to origin mode could reduce the exaggerated reflex contraction of spastic muscles. Design: Randomized crossover trial, with a restricted block randomization. Setting: Clinical laboratory and swimming pool. Patients: Seven para-swimmers. Intervention: KT, applied in inhibitory mode, to investigate its effect on knee extensor spasticity. Main Outcome Measures: Primary outcome is stretch reflex, as compared with clinical assessment of spasticity by Modified Ashworth Scale and self-perceived spasticity by numeric rating scale. Secondary outcomes were Medical Research Council for strength of knee extensor muscles and chronometric swimming performance in 100-m freestyle. Results: KT significantly decreased the amplitude of stretch reflex (P < .001), whereas the placebo treatment produced no significant effects. Scores of Medical Research Council for strength and Modified Ashworth Scale did not change after KT, whereas numeric rating scale scores for spasticity significantly decreased (P = .001). The swimming performance was significantly improved after KT treatment as compared with baseline (P < .01). Conclusions: This exploratory study performed on para-athletes suggests that KT could reduce spasticity. This outcome has 3-fold implications for clinical, rehabilitation, and sport methods.

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Marco Panascì, Vittoria Ferrando, Ambra Bisio, Luca Filipas, Piero Ruggeri, and Emanuela Faelli

Purpose: To compare the effects of 2 small-sided games (SSGs), shuttle running within the bout (SSG-S) versus possession play only (SSG-P) on acute physiological and metabolic responses, perception of effort, and performance. Methods: Ten young elite male soccer players (age 18.6 [1.9] y) performed two 5vs5 SSG formats (SSG-S and SSG-P) consisting of 4 × 4 minutes with 1 minute of passive recovery between bouts, 2 times each, once a week, and in a randomized order. Heart rate, blood lactate concentration, and rating of perceived exertion were assessed as indices of internal workload. Total and relative distances, distance at moderate and high speed, distances traveled in accelerations (≥2 m·s−2) and decelerations (≤−2 m·s−2; DDEC), and average metabolic power were chosen as indices of external workload and collected with a 10-Hz portable global positioning system device. Results: Total distance, distances traveled in acceleration, distances traveled in deceleration, average metabolic power (always P < .01 and g > 1.62—large effect), and distance at moderate speed (P = .03 and g = 0.84—large effect) were significantly higher in SSG-S than in SSG-P. Moreover, the SSG-S showed higher blood lactate concentration (P = .0001, g = 12.58—large effect) and rating of perceived exertion (P = .03, g = 1.14—large effect) values than SSG-P. No significant differences in peak heart rate, relative distance, and distance at high speed were found. Conclusions: Our study showed, in young competitive male soccer players, the effectiveness of an SSG format that includes shuttle running within each bout in the development of more relevant internal and external workloads. These experimental data should encourage coaches to use this new SSG regimen within the traditional weekly training program.

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Gabriele Gallo, Mireille Mostaert, Emanuela Faelli, Piero Ruggeri, Sundeep Delbarba, Roberto Codella, Pieter Vansteenkiste, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between youth road cycling success and becoming a professional cyclist. Specifically, the authors sought to analyze (1) the differences in the success scores in youth categories between future professional (PRO) and future nonprofessional (NON-PRO) cyclists, (2) whether relative age effect influences youth road cycling career pathways, and (3) whether youth competition success could predict a future career as a professional cyclist. Methods: The number of points gathered in the annual national ranking of 1345 Italian cyclists in the U17, U19, and U23 categories were retrospectively analyzed. Participants were divided into 2 groups: PRO (n = 43) and future NON-PRO (n = 1302), depending on whether they reached the professional level. Results: PRO outperformed NON-PRO in all the youth categories considered (ie, U17, U19, and U23). Older cyclists within the same annual age group were not overrepresented in PRO and do not have an advantage over younger cyclists within all the competition years. The number of points gathered in youth competitions provides an indication of probability of becoming professional cyclists from U17 onward with the predictive value increasing with age category. Conclusions: Handling the transition to a new age group well (especially the U19–U23 transition), and therefore having success competing against older and more experienced cyclists, is an important factor for talent identification in youth cycling.

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Marco Panascì, Simone Di Gennaro, Vittoria Ferrando, Luca Filipas, Piero Ruggeri, and Emanuela Faelli

Purpose: To compare the effects between resisted sled sprint training (RSS) and unresisted sprint training (URS) on sprint and acceleration performance, vertical jump, and maximal strength during an 8-week period of preseason training. Methods: Twenty-six recreational active rugby players were randomly divided into either RSS or URS training groups and then performed 8 weeks of training, 2 sessions/wk of sprint-specific training program. The RSS group performed sprints by towing a sled overloaded with 12.6% of body mass for 2 of the 3 sets of 3 × 20-m sprints, plus one set was carried out with unresisted modality. The URS groups performed 3 sets of 3 × 20-m unresisted sprints. The measures of 10- and 30-m sprint times, vertical jump, and 3-repetition-maximum (3-RM) squat tests were performed at baseline and after 8 weeks. Results: Ten- and 30-m sprint times (P < .05 and η p 2 > .44 ) improved significantly more in RSS than in URS. Both groups improved significantly in vertical jump and 3-RM squat tests; however, no significant differences (P > .1 and η p 2 < .11 ) between groups were found. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that an 8-week program of RSS is more effective than URS for enhancing sprint time performance in male recreational active rugby players. In addition, these data suggest that a sled overload corresponding to 12.6% of body mass can induce positive effects on both acceleration and speed performance in recreational active rugby players.

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Gabriele Gallo, Peter Leo, Manuel Mateo-March, Andrea Giorgi, Emanuela Faelli, Piero Ruggeri, Iñigo Mujika, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: To compare the race demands of junior (JUN), under 23 (U23), and professional (PRO) road cyclists. Methods: Thirty male cyclists, divided into 3 age-related categories (JUN, n = 10; U23, n = 10; and PRO, n = 10), participated in this study. Race data collected during the 2019 competitive season were retrospectively analyzed for race characteristics, external, and internal competition load. Results: Higher annual and per race duration, distance, elevation gain, Edward’s training impulse, total work, and work per hour were observed in PRO versus U23 and JUN, and U23 versus JUN (P < .01). PRO and U23 recorded higher mean maximal power (RPOs) between 5 and 180 minutes compared with JUN (P < .01). Edward’s training impulse per hour was higher in JUN than PRO and U23 (P < .01). Accordingly, JUN spent a higher percentage of racing time in high internal intensity zones compared with U23 and PRO, while these 2 categories spent more time at low internal intensity zones (P < .01). Conclusions: JUN races were shorter and included less elevation gain per distance unit compared to U23 and PRO races, but more internally demanding. JUN produced less power output in the moderate-, heavy-, and severe-intensity exercise domains compared with U23 and PRO (RPOs: 5–180 min). U23 and PRO races presented similar work demands per hour and RPOs, but PRO races were longer than U23.

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Gabriele Gallo, Manuel Mateo-March, Peter Leo, Antonio Campos-Donaire, Alexis Gandia-Soriano, Andrea Giorgi, Emanuela Faelli, Piero Ruggeri, Roberto Codella, Iñigo Mujika, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: To investigate the relationship of field-derived power and physical performance parameters with competition success in road cycling climbing specialists of age-related categories and to explore cross-sectional differences between high-ranked (HIGHR) climbing specialists of each category. Methods: Fifty-three male climbers participated in this study (junior [JUN], n = 15; under 23 [U23], n = 21; professional [PRO], n = 17). Training and racing data collected during the 2016–19 competitive seasons were retrospectively analyzed for record power outputs (RPOs) and RPOs after prior accumulated work. Results: In JUN, body mass, absolute RPOs, and relative RPOs were higher in HIGHR compared with low ranked (d = 0.97–2.20, large; P = .097–.001); in U23 and PRO, the percentage decrease in RPOs after 20, 30, 40, and 50 kJ·kg−1 was less in HIGHR compared with low ranked (d = 0.77–1.74, moderate–large; P = .096–.004). JUN HIGHR presented lower absolute and relative RPO-20 min ( η p 2 = .34 .38 , large; P = .099–.001) and higher percentage decrease in RPOs after prior accumulated work compared with U23 and PRO HIGHR ( η p 2 = .28 .68 , large; P = .060–.001); percentage decrease in RPOs after prior accumulated work was the only parameter differentiating U23 and PRO HIGHR, with PRO declining less in relative RPO-1 min, RPO-5 min, and RPO-20 min after 20 to 50 kJ·kg−1 ( η p 2 = .28 .68 , large; P = .090–.001). Conclusions: Superior absolute and relative RPOs characterize HIGHR JUN climbing specialists. Superior fatigue resistance differentiates HIGHR U23 and PRO climbers compared with low ranked, as well as PRO versus U23 climbers.

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Gabriele Gallo, Manuel Mateo-March, Daniel Gotti, Ed Maunder, Roberto Codella, Piero Ruggeri, Emanuela Faelli, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: The aim of this study was to describe individual training characteristics, racing strategies, and periodization in preparation for the Tour de France in 2 world-class road cyclists finishing in the top 5 of the general classification. Methods: Week‐by‐week power meter training and racing data of 2 (A and B) road cyclists (age: 29 and 23 y; maximum oxygen consumption: 83 and 81 mL·min−1·kg−1; and relative 20‐min record power output: 6.9 and 6.5 W·kg−1) in the preparation phase (December–July/August) leading up to the Tour de France were retrospectively analyzed. Weekly volume and intensity distribution in power zones were considered. Results: Cyclists A and B completed 46 and 19 races, 22.5 (6.3) and 18.2 (5.1) h·wk−1, with a pyramidal intensity distribution of 81.0%–13.3%–5.7%, and 88.8%–7.9%–3.3% in zone 1–zone 2–zone 3. Cyclist B spent 14 days at altitude. Increased high-intensity volume and polarization index occurred during race weeks. During periods without racing, training intensity progressively increased. Strength training was performed during November and December but not during the following months. During tapering, total exercise volume and time at high intensity decreased. Conclusion: These data provide novel insights into the periodization of world-class road cyclists in advance of a top 5 placing in the Tour de France general classification.

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Gabriele Gallo, Elisabetta Geda, Roberto Codella, Emanuela Faelli, Marco Panascì, Luis Eduardo Ranieri, Luca Pollastri, Stefania Brighenti, Luigi Molino, Ugo Riba, Livio Luzi, Piero Ruggeri, and Luca Filipas

Purpose: To investigate the effects of bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex high-definition transcranial direct-current stimulation (HD-tDCS) on physiological and performance responses during exercise at the upper limit of the severe-intensity exercise domain in elite-level road cyclists. Methods: Eleven elite-level road cyclists (VO2peak: 71.8 [3.1] mL·kg−1·min−1) underwent the HD-tDCS or SHAM condition in a double-blind, counterbalanced, and randomized order. After 20 minutes of receiving either HD-tDCS on dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (F3 and F4) or SHAM stimulation, participants completed a 10-minute constant-load trial (CLT1) at 90% of the first ventilatory threshold and a 2-minute CLT (CLT2) at peak power output. Thereafter, they performed a simulated 2-km time trial (TT). Maximal oxygen uptake, respiratory exchange ratio, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion were recorded during CLT1 and CLT2, whereas performance parameters were recorded during the TT. Results: In 6 out of 11 cyclists, the total time to complete the TT was 3.0% faster in HD-tDCS compared to SHAM. Physiological and perceptual variables measured during CLT1 and CLT2 did not change between HD‐tDCS and SHAM. Conclusions: HD-tDCS over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex seemed to improve cycling TT performance within the upper limit of the severe-intensity exercise domain, suggesting that an upregulation of the prefrontal cortex could be critical even in this exercise intensity domain. However, the limited dimension and the high interindividual variability require further studies to test these putative ergogenic effects.