A review of sport-specific performance testing in squash

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Leanne Jay Walker with Michael Duncan

The sport of squash has substantially developed since its founding in England in the early 1800s. Over 185 countries currently participate in the sport under a number of National Associations, all governed by the World Squash Federation (WSF) and the sport is currently bidding to become a sport in the 2020 Olympic Games. Squash is a racket sport played on an indoor court measuring 9750mm by 6400mm. A match is comprised of three or five games and can approach three hours in match duration. There are three main disciplines of play: ‘singles’, ‘doubles’ and ‘hardball squash doubles’. Athletes are categorised by gender, age, masters (men 35-70+ years and women 35-55 years), senior (over-19), junior (under 11/13/15/17/19 years), and level of play: recreational, regional, national and international. Squash is comprised of high intensity, short, intermittent repeated bouts. A rally is generally played within the range of 1.5-30s, with most rallies lasting 16-20s, and with about 7-8s of recovery periods in-between. Rally durations and rest period depend upon performance level of the athlete. The demands of squash suggest performance is determined by a combination of anaerobic and aerobic fitness; power, strength, speed, agility, balance and mobility combine along with tactical and technical skill, as well as awareness and control. Heart rate (HR) generally exceeds 75% of predicted maximums, reaching a plateau at 80-90% of predicted maximum within the first few minutes. In addition to this, relatively low mean blood lactate concentrations ([La-]b) range from 2-4 mmol.l-1 but have been observed to rise to 10 mmol.l-1 VO2max means between 40 - 60 ml.kg-1.min-1 (>70% VO2max) during competition have been reported. Physiological testing as a means to assess and improve performance is common practice in squash, as in the majority of sports. Testing in squash has taken place in both laboratory and field settings. However, laboratory based testing of competition-level physiological demands is questionable, as laboratory testing (LT) and sport-specific testing (SST) depict different values of physiological parameters. Müller et al suggested an improvement in quality of training to be a prerequisite for improving performance. To establish an improvement, tests that assess sport-specific parameters to their entirety should be conducted.16 The development of SST presenting methodologies that reflect game-play, simulating competition level physiological demands, are therefore deemed of great benefit. The aim of this review is to use evidence-based reasoning to appraise and critically evaluate available research conducted within and relating to squash, with a focus on sport-specific testing. The objectives of this review are to (a) observe the differences in methodology of LT and SST, (b) to observe the developments and modifications of SST within squash and (c) to observe the validity of these developments and modifications.

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