Background It's well established that by the age of 13, children are capable of applying a postural strategy looking very similar to that adopted by the adults. It's also widely acknowledgment that several years of sport training and competition implies to master stability, particularly in those sports requiring fine postural control, such as rhythmic gymnastics (Viullerme, et al, 2001). The aim of this study was to analyze the effect of early systematic gymnastic training on postural performance and control, by comparing young rhythmic gymnastics with their normally active counterparts (non-athletes).
Methods Twenty-two gymnastics girls of national level (RG: 9.59±1.1 years old; 29.9±5.5kg; 1.37±0.08 m) and nineteen non-athletes girls (non-AT: 9.74±1.0 years old; 38.7±7.3kg; 1.40±0.07 m) participated in the investigation. All Subjects performed a battery of static balance tests under three different conditions: bipedal posture as immobile as possible for 20 seconds with Eyes Open (EO), Eyes Closed (EC) and Unipedal “en-dehors” Posture (UEP). All test were performed while standing on a platform force (MuscleLab® TM system, type PFMA 4000, collection rate of 100Hz). Based on the displacement of the center of pressure variables analyzed were: Ellipse Area of 95 (A95), Mean Velocity (MV). Data were tested (SPSS-v19) for normal distribution using the Shapiro-Wilk test and the U of Mann-Whitney adjustment for non-parametric data (significance level p≤0.05).
Results Both investigated groups were similar as regards their anthropometric data. Neither the body mass (p=0.18) nor the body height (p=0.39) differentiated between the RG and non-AT. Moreover, significant differences were observed when comparing groups for MV, but not for A95, in all conditions. Interestingly, RG showed greater values of MV than non-AT in all conditions, although both groups had comparable values of surface A95. In absence of vision (EO vs EC), both groups significantly increased theirs MV, but there was a trend to be weaker this effect in gymnasts.
Conclusions Expertise in RG did not seem to improve postural strategies compared with non-AT young females. This result is in accordance with other authors that supported the idea that improvement of performance due to learning is specific to the task and not directly transferred or generalized to more usual upright stance in young females. The level of a given athlete in his activity does not implicate a corresponding level in performing usual postures (Asseman, et al., 2004).
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