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Effect of Race Distance on Muscle Oxygenation in Short-Track Speed Skating


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 1 - p 83–92
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31826c58dd
Basic Sciences

Purpose Previous work identified an asymmetry in tissue desaturation changes in the left and right quadriceps muscles during on-ice skating at maximal speed in males. The effect of changing race distance on the magnitude of desaturation or leg asymmetry is unknown.

Methods Six elite male skaters (age = 23 ± 1.8 yr, height = 1.8 ± 0.1 m, mass = 80.1 ± 5.7 kg, midthigh skinfold thickness = 7 ± 2 mm) and four elite female skaters (age = 21 ± 4 yr, height = 1.6 ± 0.1 m, mass = 65.2 ± 4.3 kg, midthigh skinfold thickness = 10 ± 1 mm) were studied. Subjects completed time trials over three race distances. Blood lactate concentration and O2 uptake measurements were combined with near-infrared spectroscopy measures of muscle oxygenation (TSI) and blood volume (tHb) in the right and left vastus lateralis.

Results Neither race distance nor gender had a significant effect on the magnitude of maximal muscle desaturation (ΔTSImax). Pattern of local changes in tHb during individual laps was dependent upon subtle differences in skating technique used for the different race distances. Linear regression analysis revealed asymmetry between the right and left leg desaturation in males during the final stages of each race distance, but not in females. At all race distances, local muscle desaturation reached maximal values much more quickly than global V˙O2peak.

Conclusion The use of wearable near-infrared spectroscopy devices enabled measurement of muscle oxygenation during competitive race simulation, thus providing unique insight into the effects of velocity and technique changes on local muscle oxygenation. This may have implications for training and race pacing in speed skating.

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1Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, UNITED KINGDOM; 2British Olympic Medical Institute, University College London, London, UNITED KINGDOM; 3School of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland, UNITED KINGDOM; and 4School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Wales, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Catherine M. Hesford, Centre for Sports and Exercise Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, United Kingdom; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2012.

Accepted for publication July 2012.

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©2013The American College of Sports Medicine