PURPOSE: To systematically review and analyze studies/reports on the 20 m shuttle run test (20mSRT) performance of children and youth (aged 9-17 years) from its inception in 1981 to present.
METHODS: A systematic review was conducted using six bibliographic databases to locate every study/report on the 20mSRT performance of children and youth since 1981. The search strategy included the following keywords: shuttle run, beep test, multi-stage, aerobic, cardio*, OR endurance; with child*, adolescen*, pubescen*, boy, girl, young, and youth as search term modifiers. Studies were included if descriptive results were reported for apparently healthy (free from known disease) 9-17 year-olds who were broadly representative of their source population, and tested on the 20mSRT (1-min stage protocol). Grey literature was included by contacting 20mSRT experts and through perusing of reference lists and personal libraries. All descriptive data were transcribed into a standardized data extraction table, and treated by converting to a common metric (speed (km/h-1) at the last completed stage) and correcting for methodological differences.
RESULTS: A total of 159 peer-review papers were identified, representing 850,036 (49% girls) from 48 different countries. Fifteen studies (9%) reported using the Queen’s University of Belfast 20mSRT protocol, 106 studies (67%) reported using the Eurofit 20mSRT protocol, and 38 studies (24%) reported using the Léger 20mSRT protocol. Studies also reported results in different metrics: total distance (m; n=2, 1%), laps (n=54, 34%), decimal minutes (n=2, 1%), full minutes (n=10, 6%), half minutes (n=11, 7%), speed at the last completed stage (km/h-1; n=15, 9%), speed at the last attempted stage (km/h-1; n=4, 3%), full stages (n=14, 9%), half stages (n=28, 18%), stage:laps (n=6, 4%), and predicted O2peak (n=13, 8%).
CONCLUSION: The 20mSRT is arguably the most widely used field-based assessment of cardiorespiratory endurance for children and youth. However; this review showed wide variability in 20mSRT protocols and performance metrics, making it difficult to combine and synthesize data. It is therefore recommended that authors report 20mSRT data in at least the common performance metric of running speed (km/h-1) at the last completed stage in addition to specific analytical goals.