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Federico Y. Fontana, Alessandro Colosio, Gabriela F. De Roia, Giorgio Da Lozzo and Silvia Pogliaghi

Anthropometric evaluation of athletes is necessary to optimize talent identification and player development.

Objectives:

To provide a specific anthropometric reference database of senior male rugby players competing at different levels in the southern European region.

Design:

Cross-sectional.

Methods:

In 362 professional players (25 ± 4 y; 138 Italian national team, 97 first-division, and 127 second-division national championships) the authors measured mass, stature, and percentage body fat (plicometry). Mean, SD, and coefficient of variation were calculated for forwards and backs and for positional subgroups. Binomial logistic regression and receiver-operating-characteristic curve were performed to assess which variables best predicted level assignment (international vs national level).

Results:

For all competitive levels forwards were significantly heavier and taller and had a larger percentage body fat and fat-free mass than backs. The lower the competitive level, the higher the within-role variability observed; furthermore, players in a specific positional subgroup were lighter, shorter, and fatter and had less fat-free mass. Fat-free mass is the variable that best predicts the likelihood of being classified as an international or national player (cutoff value 79.54 kg).

Conclusions:

The data confirm the specificity in the physical requirements of rugby in individual playing positions at all competitive levels and document significant differences among elite and 1st- and 2nd-division players in the same positional role. These differences may reflect the variable technical abilities, selection, training practices, and requirements of the game among these categories.

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Helen T. Douda, Argyris G. Toubekis, Alexandra A. Avloniti and Savvas P. Tokmakidis

Purpose:

To identify the physiological and anthropometric predictors of rhythmic gymnastics performance, which was defined from the total ranking score of each athlete in a national competition.

Methods:

Thirty-four rhythmic gymnasts were divided into 2 groups, elite (n = 15) and nonelite (n = 19), and they underwent a battery of anthropometric, physical fitness, and physiological measurements. The principal-components analysis extracted 6 components: anthropometric, flexibility, explosive strength, aerobic capacity, body dimensions, and anaerobic metabolism. These were used in a simultaneous multiple-regression procedure to determine which best explain the variance in rhythmic gymnastics performance.

Results:

Based on the principal-component analysis, the anthropometric component explained 45% of the total variance, flexibility 12.1%, explosive strength 9.2%, aerobic capacity 7.4%, body dimensions 6.8%, and anaerobic metabolism 4.6%. Components of anthropometric (r = .50) and aerobic capacity (r = .49) were significantly correlated with performance (P < .01). When the multiple-regression model—y = 10.708 + (0.0005121 × VO2 max) + (0.157 × arm span) + (0.814 × midthigh circumference) - (0.293 × body mass)—was applied to elite gymnasts, 92.5% of the variation was explained by VO2max (58.9%), arm span (12%), midthigh circumference (13.1%), and body mass (8.5%).

Conclusion:

Selected anthropometric characteristics, aerobic power, flexibility, and explosive strength are important determinants of successful performance. These findings might have practical implications for both training and talent identification in rhythmic gymnastics.

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Alison Keogh, Barry Smyth, Brian Caulfield, Aonghus Lawlor, Jakim Berndsen and Cailbhe Doherty

Purpose: Despite the volume of available literature focusing on marathon running and the prediction of performance, no single prediction equations exists that is accurate for all runners of varying experiences and abilities. Indeed the relative merits and utility of the existing equations remain unclear. Thus, the aim of this study was to collate, characterize, compare, and contrast all available marathon prediction equations. Methods: A systematic review was conducted to identify observational research studies outlining any kind of prediction algorithm for marathon performance. Results: Thirty-six studies with 114 equations were identified. Sixty-one equations were based on training and anthropometric variables, whereas 53 equations included variables that required laboratory tests and equipment. The accuracy of these equations was denoted via a variety of metrics; r 2 values were provided for 68 equations (r 2 = .10–.99), and an SEE was provided for 19 equations (SEE 0.27–27.4 min). Conclusion: Heterogeneity of the data precludes the identification of a single “best” equation. Important variables such as course gradient, sex, and expected weather conditions were often not included, and some widely used equations did not report the r 2 value. Runners should therefore be wary of relying on a single equation to predict their performance.

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Gregory R. Cox, Iñigo Mujika and Cees-Rein van den Hoogenband

Water polo is an aquatic team sport that requires endurance, strength, power, swimming speed, agility, tactical awareness, and specific technical skills, including ball control. Unlike other team sports, few researchers have examined the nutritional habits of water polo athletes or potential dietary strategies that improve performance in water polo match play. Water polo players are typically well muscled, taller athletes; female players display higher levels of adiposity compared with their male counterparts. Positional differences exist: Center players are heavier and have higher body fat levels compared with perimeter players. Knowledge of the physical differences that exist among water polo players offers the advantage of player identification as well as individualizing nutrition strategies to optimize desired physique goals. Individual dietary counseling is warranted to ensure dietary adequacy, and in cases of physique manipulation. Performance in games and during quality workouts is likely to improve by adopting strategies that promote high carbohydrate availability, although research specific to water polo is lacking. A planned approach incorporating strategies to facilitate muscle glycogen refueling and muscle protein synthesis should be implemented following intensified training sessions and matches, particularly when short recovery times are scheduled. Although sweat losses of water polo players are less than what is reported for land-based athletes, specific knowledge allows for appropriate planning of carbohydrate intake strategies for match play and training. Postgame strategies to manage alcohol intake should be developed with input from the senior player group to minimize the negative consequences on recovery and player welfare.

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Jorge E. Morais, António J. Silva, Daniel A. Marinho, Vítor P. Lopes and Tiago M. Barbosa

Purpose:

To develop a performance predictor model based on swimmers’ biomechanical profile, relate the partial contribution of the main predictors with the training program, and analyze the time effect, sex effect, and time × sex interaction.

Methods:

91 swimmers (44 boys, 12.04 ± 0.81 y; 47 girls, 11.22 ± 0.98 y) evaluated during a 3-y period. The decimal age and anthropometric, kinematic, and efficiency features were collected 10 different times over 3 seasons (ie, longitudinal research). Hierarchical linear modeling was the procedure used to estimate the performance predictors.

Results:

Performance improved between season 1 early and season 3 late for both sexes (boys 26.9% [20.88;32.96], girls 16.1% [10.34;22.54]). Decimal age (estimate [EST] –2.05, P < .001), arm span (EST –0.59, P < .001), stroke length (EST 3.82; P = .002), and propelling efficiency (EST –0.17, P = .001) were entered in the final model.

Conclusion:

Over 3 consecutive seasons young swimmers’ performance improved. Performance is a multifactorial phenomenon where anthropometrics, kinematics, and efficiency were the main determinants. The change of these factors over time was coupled with the training plans of this talent identification and development program.

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Sergio Lara-Bercial and Clifford J. Mallett

In 2011, the Innovation Group of Leading Agencies of the International Council for Coaching Excellence initiated a project aimed at supporting the identification and development of the next generation of high performance coaches. The project, entitled Serial Winning Coaches, studied the personalities, practices and developmental pathways of professional and Olympic coaches who had repeatedly achieved success at the highest level of sport. This paper is the third publication originating from this unique project. In the first paper, Mallett and Coulter (2016) focused on the development and testing of a novel multilayered methodology in understanding a person through a single case study of a successful Olympic coach. In the second, Mallett and Lara-Bercial (2016) applied this methodology to a large sample of Serial Winning Coaches and offered a composite account of their personality. In this third instalment, we turn the focus onto the actual practices and developmental pathways of these coaches. The composite profile of their practice emerging from the analysis revolves around four major themes: Philosophy, Vision, People and Environment. In addition, a summary of the developmental activities accessed by these coaches and their journey to success is also offered. Finally, we consider the overall findings of the project and propose the concept of Driven Benevolence as the overarching operational principle guiding the actions and behaviours of this group of Serial Winning Coaches.

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Michael Wilkinson, Damon Leedale-Brown and Edward M. Winter

Purpose:

We examined the validity and reproducibility of a squash-specifc test designed to assess change-of-direction speed.

Methods:

10 male squash and 10 male association-football and rugby-union players completed the Illinois agility run (IAR) and a squash change-of-direction-speed test (SCODS) on separate days. Tests were repeated after 24 h to assess reproducibility. The best time from three attempts was recorded in each trial.

Results:

Performance times on the IAR (TE 0.27 s, 1.8%, 90% CI 0.21 to 0.37 s; LOA -0.12 s ± 0.74; LPR slope 1, intercept -2.8) and SCODS (TE 0.18 s, 1.5%, 90% CI 0.14 to 0.24 s; LOA 0.05 s ± 0.49; LPR slope 0.95, intercept 0.5) were reproducible. There were no statistically significant differences in performance time between squash (14.75 ± 0.66 s) and nonsquash players (14.79 ± 0.41 s) on the IAR. Squash players (10.90 ± 0.44 s) outperformed nonsquash players (12.20 ± 0.34 s) on the SCODS (P < .01). Squash player rank significantly correlated with SCODS performance time (Spearman’s ρ = 0.77, P < .01), but not IAR performance time (Spearman’s ρ = 0.43, P = .21).

Conclusions:

The results suggest that the SCODS test is a better measure of sport-specific capability than an equivalent nonspecific field test and that it is a valid and reliable tool for talent identification and athlete tracking.

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Katherine A. Beals and Melinda M. Manore

The purpose of this study was to delineate and further define the behavioral, psychological, and physical characteristics of female athletes with subclinical eating disorders. Subjects consisted of 24 athletes with subclinical eating disorders (SCED) and 24 control athletes. Group classification was determined by scores on the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), the Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ), and a symptom checklist for eating disorders (EDI-SC). Characteristics representative of the female athletes with subclinical eating disorders were derived from an extensive health and dieting history questionnaire and an in-depth interview (the Eating Disorder Examination). Energy intake and expenditure (kcal/d) were estimated using 7-day weighed food records and activity logs. The characteristics most common in the female athletes with subclinical eating disorders included: (a) preoccupation with food, energy intake, and body weight; (b) distorted body image and body weight dissatisfaction; (c) undue influence of body weight on self-evaluation; (d) intense fear of gaining weight even though at or slightly below (-5%) normal weight; (e) attempts to lose weight using one or more pathogenic weight control methods; (g) food intake governed by strict dietary rules, accompanied by extreme feelings of guilt and self-hatred upon breaking a rule; (h) absence of medical disorder to explain energy restriction, weight loss, or maintenance of low body weight; and (i) menstrual dysfunction. Awareness of these characteristics may aid in more timely identification and treatment of female athletes with disordered eating patterns and, perhaps, prevent the development of more serious, clinical eating disorders.

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Sarah Kölling, Rob Duffield, Daniel Erlacher, Ranel Venter and Shona L. Halson

The body of research that reports the relevance of sleep in high-performance sports is growing steadily. While the identification of sleep cycles and diagnosis of sleep disorders are limited to lab-based assessment via polysomnography, the development of activity-based devices estimating sleep patterns provides greater insight into the sleep behavior of athletes in ecological settings. Generally, small sleep quantity and/or poor quality appears to exist in many athletic populations, although this may be related to training and competition context. Typical sleep-affecting factors are the scheduling of training sessions and competitions, as well as impaired sleep onset as a result of increased arousal prior to competition or due to the use of electronic devices before bedtime. Further challenges are travel demands, which may be accompanied by jet-lag symptoms and disruption of sleep habits. Promotion of sleep may be approached via behavioral strategies such as sleep hygiene, extending nighttime sleep, or daytime napping. Pharmacological interventions should be limited to clinically induced treatments, as evidence among healthy and athletic populations is lacking. To optimize and manage sleep in athletes, it is recommended to implement routine sleep monitoring on an individual basis.

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Dionne A. Noordhof, Carl Foster, Marco J.M. Hoozemans and Jos J. de Koning

A meaningful association between changes (Δ) in push-off angle or effectiveness (e) and changes in skating velocity (v) has been found during 5000-m races, although no significant association was found between changes in knee (θ0) and trunk angle (θ1) and Δv. It might be that speed skating event, sex, and performance level influence these associations.

Purpose:

To study the effect of skating event, sex, and performance level on the association between Δe and Δv and between Δθ0 and Δθ1 and Δv.

Methods:

Video recordings were made from frontal (e) and sagittal views (θ0 and θ1) during 1500- and 5000-m men’s and women’s World Cup races. Radio-frequency identification tags provided data of v.

Results:

Skating event influenced the association between Δe and Δv, which resulted in a significant association between Δe and Δv for the 5000-m (β = –0.069, 95% confidence interval [–0.11, –0.030]) but not for the 1500-m (β = –0.011 [–0.032, 0.010]). The association between Δθ0 and Δθ1 and Δv was not significantly influenced by skating event. Sex and performance level did not substantially affect the association between Δe and Δv and between Δθ0 and Δθ1 and Δv.

Conclusions:

Skating event significantly influenced the association between Δe and Δv; a 1° change in e results in a 0.011-m/s decrease in v during the 1500-m and a 0.069-m/s decrease in v during the 5000-m. Thus, it seems especially important to maintain a small e during the 5000-m.