Effects of hand chilling on manual dexterity and shooting performance in biathletes

INTRODUCTION: Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and shooting, an activity requiring fine tuned motor skills in a cold environment. Several lines of defense exist to protect the human body from cold, the first being peripheral vasoconstriction. To protect exposed areas from frostbite and to enhance manual dexterity in the cold, local cold induced vasodilation (CIVD) is induced, involving periodically increased blood flow. When hands are frequently exposed to cold the CIVD response may increase (Nelms and Soper 1962). Thus, the questions addressed here were, do biathletes have a better manual dexterity in the cold compared to non-biathlete controls, and does cold exposure affect their shooting performance? METHOD: Seven biathletes on the national elite level, and nine control subjects, 19-30 years of age, volunteered for the experiment, which were performed in the late winter. For determining effects of chilling on manual dexterity, subjects performed a peg board lest and a finger tap test, once at room temperature and once after exposure of the dominant hand and lower arm to cold water (10 degrees of Celsius) for 20 minutes. Tests were done in a weighted order and separated by four hours. Finger temperature and skin capillary blood flow (Laser-Doppler flow meter) were registered across the cold exposure for determining CIVD. Before chilling and immediately after an additional 10 min of chilling after manual dexterity tests, biathletes performed also a shooting test in standing position using their own biathlon rifles and SCATT professional shooting training system®. Shooting performance was determined as group size of 10 consecutive shots. RESULTS: Both biathletes and controls showed reductions of manual dexterity in the cold (both groups p<0.001 in both tests). CIVD was induced in both groups, with start at 8±3 min (mean±SD) in biathletes and 12+5 min in controls (p=NS). The CIVD peak flow was higher in controls (p<0.01). In biathletes, the shooting performance was negatively affected by cold, observed as an increased group size after chilling: 21.0+5.6 vs.15.7±2.9 mm (p<0.05). DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: According to these results, biathletes were not better cold adapted than controls and that cold has a negative effect on their shooting performance, at least in the standing position. To our knowledge, there are no previous studies of the effects of cold on performance in biathlon, and further studies could determine whether better manual dexterity and enhanced performance in the cold can be achieved by acclimatization.
© Copyright 2010 Book of Abstracts. 5th International Congress on Science and Skiing, Dec. 14 - 19, 2010, St. Christoph am Arlberg. Published by University of Salzburg, Interfakultärer Fachbereich Sport- und Bewegungswissenschaft/USI. All rights reserved.

Subjects: biathlon temperature hand relation performance shooting
Notations: endurance sports
Tagging: Geschicklichkeit Treffsicherheit
Published in: Book of Abstracts. 5th International Congress on Science and Skiing, Dec. 14 - 19, 2010, St. Christoph am Arlberg
Editors: E. Müller, S. Lindinger, T. Stöggl, J. Pfusterschmied
Published: Salzburg University of Salzburg, Interfakultärer Fachbereich Sport- und Bewegungswissenschaft/USI 2010
Pages: 164
Document types: congress proceedings
Language: English
Level: advanced