Scientists who are carrying out research to create an evidence-based and sports specific classification system for wheelchair fencing have published the findings of their first study.
Lead researcher Alexandre Villiere from Middlesex University in London, Great Britain, authored The physical characteristics underpinning performance of wheelchair fencing athletes: A Delphi study of Paralympic coaches alongside other scientists, which has been published in The Journal of Sports Sciences.
A Delphi study is a type of survey aimed at bringing together the views of experts, recognising the value of their experience in a particular area.
Sixteen wheelchair fencing coaches were invited to take part in three rounds of questioning. Researchers then took their responses and drew a consensus on which qualities of speed, strength, power, flexibility and motor control of the trunk and fencing arm area are associated with increased athletic success.
The abstract for the paper says:
“This study provides clear guidance of the physical qualities to be developed to maximize athletic performance while also providing the initial framework to guide future WF [wheelchair fencing] classification research.”
As well as reviewing and making recommendations on the current classification system at the end of their research, Villiere and his team also hope to improve the knowledge base for wheelchair fencing.
The paper states: “The information provided by this study may provide further insight into the sport and therefore guide the research community in designing alternative measures of impairment which could help assess its relative contribution to sporting performance. Whilst the primary focus of this research is classification related, the information presented in this study can aid coaches and sports scientists better understand performance in WF [wheelchair fencing].”
The research began in 2019 but had to pause in 2020 because of COVID-19. The next step is to identify the key activities observed in wheelchair fencing by exploring the time motion characteristics as well as quantifying movement occurrence across swords. The outcome of such research will aid the development of some sport specific tests representing the distinctive movements observed in the sport. In turn, this would enable the research team to assess the relationship between measures of impairment and measures of performance.