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Edited by R J Shephard, P O Astrand. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 2000, £85.00, pp 987. ISBN 0632053488
Generally when faced with encyclopaedic texts, I become fearful of superficial coverage of a wide variety of subjects with which I soon lose interest. Happily I can report that this volume, of almost 1000 pages, maintained my interest in chapters about which I had some knowledge and stimulated interest in areas about which I knew little.
As may be expected, the range of subjects is enormous and can best be described as falling into the following areas which are, indeed, section headings in the book: definitions; basic scientific considerations; measurements in endurance sport; principles of endurance preparation; specific population groups and endurance training; environmental aspects of endurance training; clinical aspects of endurance training; specific issues in individual and team sports.
Clearly there is something here for everyone, with more for the exercise physiologist than the medical clinician or other sport scientist. However, nutritionists, biomechanists, and psychologists will find various chapters of significant interest.
While all of the expected chapters are present—athlete's heart, genetic determinants, metabolism in contracting muscle, overtraining, maximum oxygen uptake, nutritional factors, etc—we are also treated to discussions of subjects less often found in such texts. I appreciated and learnt much from sections on the influence of endurance training and detraining on motor and sensory neurones, lung fluid movements in endurance sport, and a series of chapters covering endurance aspects of sports such as rowing, swimming, mountaineering, and human powered flight. The diversion from the physiology of marathon running was refreshing.
Perhaps greater coverage could have been given to clinical aspects of injury, as this area is an important determinant of endurance performance. The sections on injury were excellent but tended to focus on the lower limb, no doubt because of the previous concentration on running as an endurance sport. There were a few minor points against which arguments might be raised, but in general these do not detract from the quality of the volume.
There is much to be learnt from this large book, which is characterised by beautiful presentation, detailed content, clear black and white diagrams, excellent references, and a host of expert authors. It is probably most useful for exercise scientists with an interest in endurance sport, university students in this field, and medical practitioners with a bent for exercise physiology. A copy should be found in the library of any institution involved in the teaching of sport science or the management of endurance athletes.
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