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Shona L. Halson

An increase in research investigating recovery strategies has occurred alongside the increase in usage of recovery by elite athletes. Because there is inconsistent evidence regarding the benefits of recovery on performance, it is necessary to examine research design to identify possible strategies that enhance performance in different athlete settings. The purpose of this review is to examine available recovery literature specifically related to the time frame between performance assessments to identify considerations for both research design and practical use of recovery techniques.

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Shona L. Halson and Michele Lastella

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Jonathon Weakley, Shona L. Halson, and Iñigo Mujika

Context: To understand overtraining syndrome (OTS), it is important to detail the physiological and psychological changes that occur in athletes. Objectives: To systematically establish and detail the physiological and psychological changes that occur as a result of OTS in athletes. Methods: Databases were searched for studies that were (1) original investigations; (2) English, full-text articles; (3) published in peer-reviewed journals; (4) investigations into adult humans and provided (5) objective evidence that detailed changes in performance from prior to the onset of OTS diagnosis and that performance was suppressed for more than 4 weeks and (6) objective evidence of psychological symptoms. Results: Zero studies provided objective evidence of detailed changes in performance from prior to the onset of OTS diagnosis and demonstrated suppressed performance for more than 4 weeks accompanied by changes in psychological symptoms. Conclusions: All studies failed to provide evidence of changes in performance and mood from “healthy” to an overtrained state with evidence of prolonged suppression of performance. While OTS may be observed in the field, little data is available describing how physiological and psychological symptoms manifest. This stems from vague terminology, difficulties in monitoring for prolonged periods of time, and the need for prospective testing. Real-world settings may facilitate the collection of such data, but the ideal testing battery that can easily be conducted on a regular basis does not yet exist. Consequently, it must be concluded that an evidence base of sufficient scientific quality for understanding OTS in athletes is lacking.

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Shona L. Halson and David T. Martin

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Shona L. Halson and David T. Martin

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Matthew W. Driller and Shona L. Halson

Purpose:

Compression garments have been commonly used in a medical setting as a method to promote blood flow. Increases in blood flow during exercise may aid in the delivery of oxygen to the exercising muscles and, subsequently, enhance performance. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of wearing lower body compression garments during a cycling test.

Methods:

Twelve highly trained cyclists (mean ± SD age 30 ± 6 y, mass 75.6 ± 5.8 kg, VO2peak 66.6 ± 3.4 mL · kg−1 · min−1) performed two 30-min cycling bouts on a cycle ergometer in a randomized, crossover design. During exercise, either full-length lower body compression garments (COMP) or above-knee cycling shorts (CON) were worn. Cycling bouts involved 15 min at a fixed workload (70% of VO2max power) followed by a 15-min time trial. Heart rate (HR) and blood lactate (BL) were measured during the fixed-intensity component of the cycling bout to determine the physiological effect of the garments. Calf girth (CG), thigh girth (TG) and perceived soreness (PS) were measured preexercise and postexercise.

Results:

COMP produced a trivial effect on mean power output (ES = .14) compared with CON (mean ± 95% CI 1.3 ±1.0). COMP was also associated with a lower HR during the fixed-workload section of the test (−2.6% ± 2.3%, ES = −.38). There were no differences between groups for BL, CG, TG, and PS.

Conclusion:

Wearing compression garments during cycling may result in trivial performance improvements of ~1% and may enhance oxygen delivery to the exercising muscles.

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Laura E. Juliff, Jeremiah J. Peiffer, and Shona L. Halson

Context: Night games are a regular occurrence for team-sport athletes, yet sleep complaints following night competitions are common. The mechanisms responsible for reported sleep difficulty in athletes are not understood. Methods: An observational crossover design investigating a night netball game and a time-matched rest day in 12 netball athletes was conducted to ascertain differences in physiological (core temperature), psychometric (state and trait), and neuroendocrine (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol) responses. Results: Following the night game, athletes experienced reduced sleep durations, lower sleep efficiency, early awakenings, and poorer subjective sleep ratings compared with the rest day. No differences were found between core temperature, state psychometric measures, and cortisol at bedtime. Adrenaline and noradrenaline concentrations were elevated compared with the time-matched rest day prior to (26.92 [15.88] vs 12.90 [5.71] and 232.6 [148.1] vs 97.83 [36.43] nmol/L, respectively) and following the night game (18.67 [13.26] vs 11.92 [4.56] and 234.1 [137.2] vs 88.58 [54.08] nmol/L, respectively); however, the concentrations did not correlate to the sleep variables (duration, efficiency, and sleep-onset latency). A correlation (r s = −.611) between sleep efficiency and hyperarousal (trait psychometric measure) was found. Conclusions: Athletes experienced poor sleep following a night game. Furthermore, results suggest that athletes who have a tendency toward a high trait arousal may be more susceptible to sleep complaints following a night game. These data expand knowledge and refute frequently hypothesized explanations for poor sleep following night competition. The results may also help support staff and coaches target strategies for individual athletes at a higher risk of sleep complaints.

Open access

Charli Sargent, Michele Lastella, Shona L. Halson, and Gregory D. Roach

Purpose: Anecdotal reports indicate that many elite athletes are dissatisfied with their sleep, but little is known about their actual sleep requirements. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the self-assessed sleep need of elite athletes with an objective measure of their habitual sleep duration. Methods: Participants were 175 elite athletes (n = 30 females), age 22.2 (3.8) years (mean [SD]) from 12 individual and team sports. The athletes answered the question “how many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested?” and they kept a self-report sleep diary and wore a wrist activity monitor for ∼12 nights during a normal phase of training. For each athlete, a sleep deficit index was calculated by subtracting their average sleep duration from their self-assessed sleep need. Results: The athletes needed 8.3 (0.9) hours of sleep to feel rested, their average sleep duration was 6.7 (0.8) hours, and they had a sleep deficit index of 96.0 (60.6) minutes. Only 3% of athletes obtained enough sleep to satisfy their self-assessed sleep need, and 71% of athletes fell short by an hour or more. Specifically, habitual sleep duration was shorter in athletes from individual sports than in athletes from team sports (F 1,173 = 13.1, P < .001; d = 0.6, medium), despite their similar sleep need (F 1,173 = 1.40, P = .24; d = 0.2, small). Conclusions: The majority of elite athletes obtain substantially less than their self-assessed sleep need. This is a critical finding, given that insufficient sleep may compromise an athlete’s capacity to train effectively and/or compete optimally.

Open access

Shona L. Halson, Louise M. Burke, and Jeni Pearce

Domestic and international travel represents a regular challenge to high-performance track-and-field athletes, particularly when associated with the pressure of competition or the need to support specialized training (e.g., altitude or heat adaptation). Jet lag is a challenge for transmeridian travelers, while fatigue and alterations to gastrointestinal comfort are associated with many types of long-haul travel. Planning food and fluid intake that is appropriate to the travel itinerary may help to reduce problems. Resynchronization of the body clock is achieved principally through manipulation of zeitgebers, such as light exposure; more investigation of the effects of melatonin, caffeine, and the timing/composition of meals will allow clearer guidelines for their contribution to be prepared. At the destination, the athlete, the team management, and catering providers each play a role in achieving eating practices that support optimal performance and success in achieving the goals of the trip. Although the athlete is ultimately responsible for his or her nutrition plan, best practice by all parties will include pretrip consideration of risks around the quality, quantity, availability, and hygiene standards of the local food supply and the organization of strategies to deal with general travel nutrition challenges as well as issues that are specific to the area or the special needs of the group. Management of buffet-style eating, destination-appropriate protocols around food/water and personal hygiene, and arrangement of special food needs including access to appropriate nutritional support between the traditional “3 meals a day” schedule should be part of the checklist.