BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 2017 highlights

Throughout 2017 BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation has published a wide range of articles. Here we look back at the most talked about articles of the year.

Differences in life expectancy between Olympic high jumpers, discus throwers, marathon and 100 meter runners

Previous studies have investigated the life expectancy of elite athletes compared to that of the general population. These studies have found that, while the majority of elite athletes to live longer than the general public, this is not the case in all sports.

This study by Lee-Heidenreich and colleagues attempted to identify any variations in life expectancy within athletics events. They analyzed the death dates of the top 20 males and females in various track and field athletics events such as: the Olympic high jump, discus, marathon and 100m sprint from the years 1928–1948. Their results revealed that life expectancy did vary by event, with high-jumpers and marathon runners living longer than discus throwers and sprinters.

Furthermore, Olympic medalists were found to have a higher life expectancy than the general population regardless of country, whereas 100m runners did not live longer than the general population. The authors suggest that future studies are needed to determine if there are differences in cause-specific mortality (e.g. cardiovascular disease) between different types of elite athletes.

Team sport athletes’ perceptions and use of recovery strategies: a mixed-methods survey study

There are many ways that an athlete can recover after exercise, but what methods are the most popular? A study carried out by Fiona Crowther and colleagues from James Cook University in Australia surveyed the preferred recovery methods of 331 athletes from levels ranging from local to international. They found that all international athletes used massage as a form of recovery, whereas the most popular method of recovery overall was stretching.

Although the majority of participants did undertake recovery techniques, these did not always align with scientific evidence on the most efficient recovery technique. Consequently, it is important that athletes and coaching staff are informed about the effects of different techniques to ensure recovery strategies are selected and implemented for the correct reasons.

The influence of a Healthy Welcoming Environment on participation in club sport by adolescent girls: a longitudinal study

Currently, four out of five adolescents do not achieve the recommended levels of physical activity per day, particularly adolescent girls, who are significantly less active than their male counterparts. Why is this? And how do you increase adolescent participation in sport?

To try and address these questions, Casey and co-workers investigated the role that a healthy welcoming environment had on the participation in sports clubs of two groups of secondary school girls. They collected information on the sports membership of female students in years 7 (aged 11-13 years) and 11 (aged 16-18 years) and recorded the factors that influenced their decision to take part in sport. The results indicated that 80% of participants rated the welcoming atmosphere of the club (knowing someone at the club/friendliness of the coach) as an important factor, whereas the healthy environment of the club was found to be significantly less important.

Some welcoming strategies suggested by the authors include: a designated club ambassador who is responsible for meeting new members, a club induction, club events, and linking new members with a peer mentor. Consequently sporting bodies should consider prioritizing the social environment within sports clubs in order to increase sports participation in adolescent girls.

Are we missing opportunities? Physiotherapy and physical activity promotion: a cross-sectional survey

Physiotherapists are in an ideal position to promote physical activity (PA); however, there is little evidence that this occurs. To investigate this, Nicole Freene, Sophie Cools and Bernie Bissett from the University of Canberra (Australia) surveyed a total of 257 Australian physiotherapists to determine how frequently they promoted PA and to assess their knowledge of the Australian physical activity and sedentary behavior (PASB) guidelines.

While the majority of participants agreed that the promotion of PA was part of their role, the results found that only half of the participants promoted PA beyond therapeutic exercise to 10 or more patients per month. Furthermore, male physiotherapists were significantly more likely to promote PA than female physiotherapists. The study also found that the participants generally had a poor knowledge of the Australian (PASB) guidelines, with only a small percentage being able to accurately state all four components of the guidelines.

As a result of these findings, it is apparent that that further education on the Australian PASB guidelines may allow physiotherapists to promote PA more successfully.

Are there two forms of isometric muscle action? Results of the experimental study support a distinction between a holding and a pushing isometric muscle function

Current research regarding isometric (static) muscle action is limited, but it has been suggested that two forms of isometric action could exist: (i) holding isometric muscle action (HIMA), where an applied external load is held in a static position, and (ii) pushing isometric muscle action (PIMA), where the subject pushes against or pulls at a resistance that equals the force exerted.

In this study, Laura Schaefer and Frank Bittmann (University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany) measured various parameters in the triceps brachii muscle of 10 healthy participants while they performed both a pushing and a holding exercise. Their study found a variation between the two muscle actions in regards to force endurance, the power at particular frequencies and time to exhaustion (as HIMA was found to cause the muscle to exhaust more rapidly than PIMA).

One possible explanation for this variation is that the neuronal control strategies and muscle physiological aspects in HIMA more closely resemble an eccentric muscle action, while PIMA could be more similar to a concentric muscle action.

These results partially support the theory that there are two types of isometric muscle action; however, further research is required regarding the cause of variation between the two muscle actions.

Hormonal aspects of overtraining syndrome: a systematic review

Some people may believe that intense exercising every day is the best way to get fit; however, excessive training and insufficient recovery in sport can lead to overtraining syndrome (OTS). OTS causes acute feelings of fatigue and decreased performance, but can be hard to diagnose as it can be triggered by a variety of factors including hormonal, metabolic and immune dysfunction.

Using PRISMA guidelines, Cadegiani and Kater performed a systematic review to investigate the hormonal aspects of OTS as a potential diagnostic tool. They found that basal levels of hormones were not a good indicator of overtraining, whereas growth hormone (GH) and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) responses were blunted during stimulation tests undertaken by the affected individuals. Further research is required, but the study indicates that GH and ACTH responses may be useful predictors in the diagnosis of OTS.

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