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Glen M. Blenkinsop, Ying Liang, Nicholas J. Gallimore and Michael J. Hiley

, golf courses are variable environments, and conditions can change from shot to shot. A game of golf is more than likely to include uneven ground, requiring shots to be played from an uphill or downhill slope. The inclination between the golfer’s feet and the ball of 22 professional players over 16

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Robert N. Marshall, David J. Paterson and Paul Glendining

Approximately 25 runners were filmed at the 24.9- and 41.0-km points in the 1987 Everest Marathon. Their finishing times ranged from 4:53:10 to 7:14:37. Leg length, step lengths, step frequencies, knee angles at impact, and ankle-to-hip angles at impact were determined for each runner who appeared in both films (N = 20). The slopes at the two filming sites were −21.8% and −26.8%, considerably steeper gradients than have previously been studied. When compared to data from other downhill running studies at −10% gradient, these athletes had slightly slower speeds, shorter step lengths, straighter legs on impact, and greater minimum knee angles during stance. The results suggest that the runners used a variety of techniques to minimize the effects of ground impact while still allowing for the competitive aspect of the race, considerable variation in footing and terrain, and personal safety.

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Joel B. Chidley, Alexandra L. MacGregor, Caoimhe Martin, Calum A. Arthur and Jamie H. Macdonald

Purpose:

To identify physiological, psychological, and skill characteristics that explain performance in downhill (DH) mountainbike racing.

Methods:

Four studies were used to (1) identify factors potentially contributing to DH performance (using an expert focus group), (2) develop and validate a measure of rider skill (using video analysis and expert judge evaluation), (3) evaluate whether physiological, psychological, and skill variables contribute to performance at a DH competition, and (4) test the specific contribution of aerobic capacity to DH performance.

Results:

Study 1 identified aerobic capacity, handgrip endurance, anaerobic power, rider skill, and self-confidence as potentially important for DH. In study 2 the rider-skill measure displayed good interrater reliability. Study 3 found that rider skill and handgrip endurance were significantly related to DH ride time (β = –0.76 and –0.14, respectively; R 2 = .73), with exploratory analyses suggesting that DH ride time may also be influenced by self-confidence and aerobic capacity. Study 4 confirmed aerobic capacity as an important variable influencing DH performance (for a DH ride, mean oxygen uptake was 49 ± 5 mL · kg−1 · min−1, and 90% of the ride was completed above the 1st ventilatory threshold).

Conclusions:

In order of importance, rider skill, handgrip endurance, self-confidence, and aerobic capacity were identified as variables influencing DH performance. Practically, this study provides a novel assessment of rider skill that could be used by coaches to monitor training and identify talent. Novel intervention targets to enhance DH performance were also identified, including self-confidence and aerobic capacity.

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Jonathan K. Holm, Jonas Contakos, Sang-Wook Lee and John Jang

This study investigated the energetics of the human ankle during the stance phase of downhill walking with the goal of modeling ankle behavior with a passive spring and damper mechanism. Kinematic and kinetic data were collected on eight male participants while walking down a ramp with inclination varying from 0° to 8°. The ankle joint moment in the sagittal plane was calculated using inverse dynamics. Mechanical energy injected or dissipated at the ankle joint was computed by integrating the power across the duration of the stance phase. The net mechanical energy of the ankle was approximately zero for level walking and monotonically decreased (i.e., became increasingly negative) during downhill walking as the slope decreased. The indication is that the behavior of the ankle is energetically passive during downhill walking, playing a key role in dissipating energy from one step to the next. A passive mechanical model consisting of a pin joint coupled with a revolute spring and damper was fit to the ankle torque and its parameters were estimated for each downhill slope using linear regression. The passive model demonstrated good agreement with actual ankle dynamics as indicated by low root-mean-square error values. These results indicate the stance phase behavior of the human ankle during downhill walking may be effectively duplicated by a passive mechanism with appropriately selected spring and damping characteristics.

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William P. Ebben

Purpose:

This study evaluated a variety of downhill slopes in an effort to determine the optimal slope for overspeed running.

Methods:

Thirteen NCAA Division III college athletes who participated in soccer, track, and football ran 40-yd (36.6-m) sprints, on downhill slopes of 2.1°, 3.3°, 4.7°, 5.8°, and 6.9° in random order. All sprints were timed using the Brower Timing System Speedtrap II. Data were analyzed with SSPS 15.0. A 1-way repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed significant main effects for the test slopes (P = .000). Bonferroni-adjusted pairwise comparisons determined that there were a number of differences between the hill slopes.

Results:

Analysis reveals that 40-yd sprints performed on hill slopes of approximately 5.8° were optimal compared with flatland running and the other slopes assessed (P < .05). Sprinting on a 5.8° slope increased the subjects’ maximal speed by an average of 0.35 s, resulting in a 6.5% ± 4.0% decrease in 40-yd sprint time compared with fatland running. Compared with the 4.7° slope, the 5.8° slope yielded a 0.10-s faster 40-yd sprint time, resulting in a 1.9% increase in speed.

Conclusions:

Those who train athletes for speed should use or develop overspeed hills with slopes of approximately 5.8° to maximize acute sprinting speed. The results of this study bring into question previous recommendations to use hills of 3° downhill slope for this form of overspeed training.

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Peter Schaff, Lars Nordsletten and Arne Kristian Aune

The purpose of this study was to examine motion and muscle activity in downhill skiing in order to estimate muscular involvement during the landing phase and its potential effect on ACL injury. Specially developed 8-channel portable electromyo-graphy registration was conducted during three jumps on the Russi jump of the 1994 Olympic downhill slope, and six control jumps were carried out in the laboratory. The results reveal that the skier adapts to the expected loading of the knee, possibly by using a learned motor control pattern. It is still not clear, however, how important muscular adaptation to expected forces is. The complex functional EMG pattern that skiers use while landing indicates that ACL rupture caused during a backward fall in downhill skiing might be due to a combination of the boot-top-induced anterior shear, the force generated in the ACL by forceful knee hyperflexion supported by the high bending moment generated by a stiff spoiler, and the possible absence of a significant protecting hamstrings force during maximum loading.

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Giuliamarta Bottoni, Dieter Heinrich, Philipp Kofler, Michael Hasler and Werner Nachbauer

Context:

During sport activity, knee proprioception might worsen. This decrease in proprioceptive acuity negatively influences motor control and therefore may increase injury risk. Hiking is a common activity characterized by a higher-intensity-exercise phase during uphill walking and a lower-intensity-exercise phase during downhill walking. Pain and injuries are reported in hiking, especially during the downhill phase.

Objective:

To examine the effect of a hiking-fatigue protocol on joint-position sense.

Design:

Repeated measures.

Setting:

University research laboratory.

Participants:

24 nonprofessional sportswomen without knee injuries.

Main Outcome Measures:

Joint-position sense was tested at the beginning, after 30 min uphill walking, and after 30 min downhill walking on a treadmill (continuous protocol).

Results:

After downhill walking, joint-position sense was significantly worse than in the test at the beginning (P = .035, α = .05). After uphill walking, no differences were observed in comparison with the test at the beginning (P = .172, α = .05) or the test after downhill walking (P = .165, α = .05).

Conclusion:

Downhill walking causes impairment in knee-joint-position sense. Considering these results, injury-prevention protocols for hiking should focus on maintaining and improving knee proprioception during the descending phase.

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William M. Sherman, Julie M. Lash, John C. Simonsen and Susan A. Bloomfield

Because muscle damage from eccentric exercise has been associated with alterations in muscle glycogen metabolism, this study determined the effects of exercise on the insulin and glucose responses to an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). In a repeated-measures design, 11 subjects undertook either no exercise, 2 min of isokinetic leg exercise, or 50 min of level or downhill running. No exercise was performed and diet was controlled during the 48 hrs after the treatments and before the OGTT. Ratings of muscle soreness and CK activity were significantly elevated 48 hrs after downhill running. Level running also increased CK activity but did not induce muscle soreness. Isokinetic exercise did not affect either one. Blood glucose responses to the OGTT were similar among the treatments. In contrast, the insulin responses to the OGTT following downhill running were significantly increased. These results suggest that eccentric exercise associated with downhill running that results in delayed muscle soreness is associated with the development of a mild insulin-resistant condition.

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Jeffrey J. Chu and Graham E. Caldwell

Studies on shock attenuation during running have induced alterations in impact loading by imposing kinematic constraints, e.g., stride length changes. The role of shock attenuation mechanisms has been shown using mass-spring-damper (MSD) models, with spring stiffness related to impact shock dissipation. The present study altered the magnitude of impact loading by changing downhill surface grade, thus allowing runners to choose their own preferred kinematic patterns. We hypothesized that increasing downhill grade would cause concomitant increases in both impact shock and shock attenuation, and that MSD model stiffness values would reflect these increases. Ten experienced runners ran at 4.17 m/s on a treadmill at surface grades of 0% (level) to 12% downhill. Accelerometers were placed on the tibia and head, and reflective markers were used to register segmental kinematics. An MSD model was used in conjunction with head and tibial accelerations to determine head/arm/trunk center of mass (HATCOM) stiffness (K1), and lower extremity (LEGCOM) stiffness (K2) and damping (C). Participants responded to increases in downhill grade in one of two ways. Group LowSA had lower peak tibial accelerations but greater peak head accelerations than Group HighSA, and thus had lower shock attenuation. LowSA also showed greater joint extension at heelstrike, higher HATCOM heelstrike velocity, reduced K1 stiffness, and decreased damping than HighSA. The differences between groups were exaggerated at the steeper downhill grades. The separate responses may be due to conflicts between the requirements of controlling HATCOM kinematics and shock attenuation. LowSA needed greater joint extension to resist their higher HATCOM heelstrike velocities, but a consequence of this strategy was the reduced ability to attenuate shock with the lower extremity joints during early stance. With lower HATCOM impact velocities, the HighSA runners were able to adopt a strategy that gave more control of shock attenuation, especially at the steepest grades.

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Billy Sperlich, Silvia Achtzehn, Mirijam Buhr, Christoph Zinner, Stefan Zelle and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Purpose:

This study aimed to quantify the intensity profile of elite downhill mountain bike races during competitions.

Methods:

Seventeen male downhill racers (22 ± 5 y; 185.1 ± 5.3 cm; 68.0 ± 3.9 kg; VO2peak: 59.4 ± 4.1 mL·min·kg−1) participated in the International German Downhill Championships in 2010. The racers’ peak oxygen uptake and heart rate (HR) at 2 and 4 mmol·L−1 blood lactate (HR2 and HR4), were assessed during an incremental laboratory step test (100 W, increase 40 W every 5 min). During the races, the HR was recorded and pre- and postrace blood lactate concentrations as well as salivary cortisol levels were obtained.

Results:

During the race, the absolute time spent in the “easy” intensity zone was 23.3 ± 6.8 s, 24.2 ± 12.8 s (HR2–HR4) in the “moderate” zone, and 151.6 ± 18.3 s (>HR4) in the “hard” zone. Eighty percent of the entire race was accomplished at intensities >90% HRpeak. Blood lactate concentrations postrace were higher than those obtained after the qualification heat (8.0 ± 2.5 mmol·L−1 vs 6.7 ± 1.8 mmol·L−1, P < .01). Salivary levels of cortisol before the competition and the qualification heat were twice as high as at resting state (P < .01).

Conclusions:

This study shows that mountain bike downhill races are conducted at high heart rates and levels of blood lactate as well as increased concentration of salivary cortisol as marker for psycho-physiological stress.