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Paul G. Montgomery and Will G. Hopkins

Australian Football is an intense team sport played over ~120 min on a weekly basis. To determine the effects of game and training load on muscle soreness and the time frame of soreness dissipation, 64 elite Australian Football players (age 23.8 ± 1.8 y, height 183.9 ± 3.8 cm, weight 83.2 ± 5.0 kg; mean ± SD) recorded perceptions of muscle soreness, game intensity, and training intensity on scales of 1–10 on most mornings for up to 3 competition seasons. Playing and training times were also recorded in minutes. Data were analyzed with a mixed linear model, and magnitudes of effects on soreness were evaluated by standardization. All effects had acceptably low uncertainty. Game and training-session loads were 790 ± 182 and 229 ± 98 intensity-minutes (mean ± SD), respectively. General muscle soreness was 4.6 ± 1.1 units on d 1 postgame and fell to 1.9 ± 1.0 by d 6. There was a small increase in general muscle soreness (0.22 ± 0.07–0.50 ± 0.13 units) in the 3 d after high-load games relative to low-load games. Other soreness responses showed similar timelines and magnitudes of change. Training sessions made only small contributions to soreness over the 3 d after each session. Practitioners should be aware of these responses when planning weekly training and recovery programs, as it appears that game-related soreness dissipates after 3 d regardless of game load and increased training loads in the following week produce only small increases in soreness.

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David K. Liow and Will G. Hopkins

The training practices of athletes with disabilities were investigated by means of a validated self-administered questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were derived from the replies of 41 wheelchair racers, 20 swimmers, and 14 athletes specializing in throwing events. The majority of athletes competed at either international (77%) or national levels (15%). Almost all swimmers were coached frequently, but one third of the wheelchair racers and one half of the throwers were not coached. Median volumes of endurance, interval, strength, and skill training in each of four training phases (buildup, precompetition, taper, and postcompetition) only partially reflected the contribution of energy systems and skills to performance in the different sports; moreover, there were wide variations in the training programs of athletes within each sport, especially swimmers and throwers. It was concluded that there is need for improvement in the coaching and training of many top-class athletes with disabilities.

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David S. Rowlands and Will G. Hopkins

The effect of pre-exercise meal composition on metabolism and performance in cycling were investigated in a crossover study. Twelve competitive cyclists ingested high-fat, high-carbohydrate, or high-protein meals 90 min before a weekly exercise test. The test consisted of a 1-hour pre-load at 55% peak power, five 10-min incremental loads from 55 to 82% peak power (to measure the peak fat-oxidation rate), and a 50-km time trial that included three 1-km and 4-km sprints. A carbohydrate supplement was ingested throughout the exercise. Relative to the high-protein and high-fat meals, the high-carbohydrate meal halved the peak fat-oxidation rate and reduced the fat oxidation across all workloads by a factor of 0.20 to 0.58 (p = .002–.0001). Reduced fat availability may have accounted for this reduction, as indicated by lower plasma fatty acid, lower glycerol, and higher pre-exercise insulin concentrations relative to the other meals (p = .04–.0001). In contrast, fat oxidation following the high-protein meal was similar to that following the high-fat meal. This similarity was linked to evidence suggesting greater lipolysis and plasma fat availability following high-protein relative to high-carbohydrate meals. Despite these substantial effects on metabolism, meal composition had no clear effect on sprint or 50-km performance.

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Fabio R. Serpiello and Will G. Hopkins

Purpose: To assess the convergent validity of internal load measured with the CR100 scale in youth football players of 3 age groups. Methods: A total of 59 players, age 12–17 years, from the youth academy of a professional football club were involved in this study. Convergent validity was examined by calculating the correlation between session ratings of perceived exertion (sRPE) and Edwards load, a commonly used load index derived from the heart rate, with the data originating from 1 competitive season. The magnitude of the relationship between sRPE and Edwards load was obtained with weighted mean correlations and by assessing the effect of the change of the Edwards load on sRPE. Differences between the individuals’ intercepts and slopes were assessed by interpreting the SD representing the random effects (player identity and the interaction of player identity and scaled Edwards load). Probabilistic decisions about true (infinite sample) magnitudes accounting for sampling uncertainty were based on 1-sided hypothesis tests of substantial magnitudes, followed by reference Bayesian analysis. Results: Very high relationships exist between the sRPE and Edwards load across all age groups, with no meaningful differences in the magnitudes of the relationships between groups. Moderate to large differences between training sessions and games were found in the slopes of the relationships between the sRPE and Edwards load in all age groups. Finally, mostly small to moderate differences were observed between individuals for the intercepts and slopes of the relationships between the sRPE and Edwards load. Conclusion: Practitioners working in youth team sports can safely use the CR100 scale to track internal load.

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Kathryn E. Phillips and Will G. Hopkins

Purpose: To further the understanding of elite athlete performance in complex race environments by examining the changes in cyclists’ performance between solo time trials and head-to-head racing in match-sprint tournaments. Methods: Analyses were derived from official results of cyclists in 61 elite international sprint tournaments (2000–2016), incorporating the results of 2060 male and 1969 female head-to-head match races. Linear mixed modeling of log-transformed qualification and finish ranks was used to determine estimates of performance predictability as intraclass correlation coefficients. Correlations between qualifying performance and final tournament rank were also calculated. Chances of winning head-to-head races were estimated adjusting for the difference in the cyclists’ qualifying times. All effects were evaluated using magnitude-based inference. Results: Minor differences in predictability between qualification time trial and final tournament rank were suggestive of more competitiveness among men in the overall tournament. Performance in the qualification time trial was strongly correlated with, but not fully indicative of, performance in the overall tournament. Correspondingly, being the faster qualifier had a large positive effect on the chances of winning a head-to-head race, but small substantial differences between riders remained after adjustment for time-trial differentials. Conclusions: The present study provides further insight into how real-world competition data can be used to investigate elite athlete performance in sports where athletes must directly interact with their opponents. For elite match-sprint cyclists, qualifying time-trial performance largely determines success in the overall tournament, but there is evidence of a consistent match-race ability that modifies the chances of winning head-to-head races.

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Kathryn E. Phillips and Will G. Hopkins

Purpose:

To explore the extent to which factors that determine performance transfer within and between time-trial and mass-start events in the track-cycling Omnium.

Methods:

Official finish rank in the 3 time-trial events, in the 3 mass-start events, and in the competition overall were collated in 20 international Omnium competitions between 2010 and 2014 for 196 male and 140 female cyclists. Linear mixed modeling of the log-transformed finish time for the time-trial events and of log-transformed finish rank for all events and final rank provided estimates of within-athlete race-to-race changes in performance and average betweenathletes differences across a season. These estimates were converted to various correlations representing relationships within and between the various events and final rank.

Results:

Intraclass correlation coefficients, representing race-to-race reproducibility of performance, were similar whether derived from finish rank or finish time for the time-trial events. Log-transformed finish ranks are therefore a suitable measure to assess and compare performance in time-trial and mass-start events. Omnium cyclists were more predictable in their performances from race to race in the timed events, whereas reduced predictability was observed in mass-start events. Interevent correlations indicated stronger links in performance between the timed disciplines, whereas performance in any of the mass-start events had only a slight positive relationship with performance in the other massstart events and little or no relationship with the timed events.

Conclusions:

Further investigation is warranted to determine whether factors related to performance in mass-start events can be identified to improve reproducibility or whether variability in performance results from random chance.

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Darrell L. Bonetti and Will G. Hopkins

Purpose:

To estimate variability in performance time and smallest worthwhile changes for elite fat-water canoeists competing in 200-, 500- or 1000-m events at international regattas.

Methods:

The data came from A and B finals held at 7 to 13 regattas in 2003 to 2007. A linear mixed-model analysis of log-transformed official race times provided estimates of variability as coefficients of variation and included terms to account for changes in performance between years, venues, and A and B finals.

Results:

For men, the within-athlete variation in A finals was similar in canoeing and kayaking events, with the 200-m men’s events demonstrating probably less variability than the longer events (by an overall factor of 0.75, ×/÷1.33) that may reflect differences in pacing strategies. In contrast, the within-athlete variation for women kayakers in A finals of the 500-m event was only half that of the other distances (ratio 0.54, ×/÷1.29), possibly because of differences in competitive experience or depth of competition. Predictability of performance in A finals was moderate to very high (interclass correlations 0.40 to 0.89). Within-athlete variation in the B finals was generally greater than in the A finals for the three distances for men, but there was no clear pattern for women.

Conclusion:

The smallest worthwhile changes in performance time (0.3× within-athlete variability) in canoeing and kayaking are approx. 0.3% to 0.6%. Effects of 1% to 2% in power output would be required to achieve such changes in this generally highly predictable sport.

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Will G. Hopkins and Alan M. Batterham

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Michael J. Hamlin, Will G. Hopkins, and Stephen C. Hollings

Purpose:

Lower barometric air pressure at altitude can affect competitive performance of athletes in some sports. Reported here are the effects of various altitudes on elite track-and-field athletes’ performance.

Methods:

Lifetime track-and-field performances of athletes placed in the top 16 in at least 1 major international competition between 2000 and 2009 were downloaded from the database at tilastopaja.org. There were 132,104 performances of 1889 athletes at 794 venues. Performances were logtransformed and analyzed using a mixed linear model with fixed effects for 6 levels of altitude and random quadratic effects to adjust for athlete age.

Results:

Men’s and women’s sprint events (100–400 m) showed marginal improvements of ~0.2% at altitudes of 500–999 m, and above 1500 m all but the 100- and 110-m hurdles showed substantial improvements of 0.3–0.7%. Some middle- and long-distance events (800–10,000 m) showed marginal impairments at altitudes above 150 m, but above 1000 m the impairments increased dramatically to ~2–4% for events >800 m. There was no consistent trend in the effects of altitude on field events up to 1000 m; above 1000 m, hammer throw showed a marginal improvement of ~1% and discus was impaired by 1–2%. Above 1500 m, triple jump and long jump showed marginal improvements of ~1%.

Conclusions:

In middle- and long-distance runners, altitudes as low as 150 to 299 m can impair performance. Higher altitudes (≥1000 m) are generally required before decreases in discus performance or enhancements in sprinting, triple and long jump, or hammer throw are seen.

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Patrycja Lipinska, Sian V. Allen, and Will G. Hopkins

Purpose:

Pacing has a substantial effect on endurance performance. The authors characterize pacing and identify its parameters for optimal performance in 1500-m freestyle swimming.

Methods:

Web sites provided 50-m lap and 1500-m race times for 330 swims of 24 elite male swimmers. Pacing for each swim was characterized with 7 parameters derived from a general linear model: linear and quadratic coefficients for the effect of lap number; reductions from predicted time for first, second, penultimate, and last laps; and lap-time variability. Scatter plots of race time vs each parameter for each swimmer were used to identify optimum values of parameters.

Results:

Most scatterplots showed only weak relationships between the parameter and performance, but one-third to one-half of swimmers had an optimum value of the parameter that was substantially different from their mean value. A large improvement in performance time (1.4% ± 0.9%, mean ± SD) could be achieved generally by reversing the sign of the linear parameter to make the slowest lap occur earlier in the race. Small to moderate improvements might also accrue by changing the quadratic parameter, by making the first and second laps slower and the penultimate and last laps faster, and reducing lap-time variability.

Conclusions:

This approach to analysis of pacing may help improve performance in swimmers and other endurance athletes in sports with multiple laps, but data from many competitions are required.