Athlete monitoring continues to be a hot topic in the field of sports performance training. Ensuring athletes are coping positively to training and are not over-worked come competition time is important for the overall health and longevity of the team. Various monitoring tools exist that have successfully been implemented in the field. To name a few:
- Vertical or Drop Jump Height to assess neuromuscular fatigue
- Heart rate or Heart Rate Variability to assess cardiac-autonomic status
- Reaction Time to assess psychomotor speed
- Bar Velocity as another method of tracking neuromuscular fatigue
- GPS tracking to quantify external training load
- Psychometrics to assess perceived fatigue, etc.
Each of these methods have their limitations, and none are perfect. A quality monitoring program will typically include various parameters to provide the most complete picture of training status as possible.
A recent paper by Wehbe and colleagues (2014) from the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance discusses an interesting monitoring technique for team sport athletes using a cycle ergometer test. Twelve elite U-18 Australian Rules Football players performed a short sprint test on a cycle ergometer as well as a counter-movement jump test before a competition (1 hour pre), after competition (1 hour post), and again at 24 and 48 hours following the match. The sprint test on the cycle ergometer included a standardized warm-up followed by two, 6-second maximal sprints with 1 minute rest between each. Peak power for each sprint was recorded for analysis.
Moderate, large and moderate differences between counter-movement jump and peak power (cycle ergometer) were found at 1, 24 and 48 hours post-match, respectively. A marked reduction in peak cycling power from the 6 second tests was observed at 24 hours following the match. The authors concluded that this novel monitoring test quantifies the concentric component of the fatigue-induced decrement in muscular force production and offers different information than a counter-movement jump test. Though more research in the area is needed, this simple test may be a convenient parameter to monitor fatigue in athletes for coaches who have access to laboratory equipment.
Wehbe, G., et al. Neuromuscular Fatigue Monitoring in Team Sport Athletes Using a Cycle Ergometer Test. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, Ahead of print.