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Passive and active drag of paralympic swimmers

Oh, Yim-Taek (2015) Passive and active drag of paralympic swimmers. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The aim of this thesis was to contribute to the development of an objective, evidence-based international classification system for para-swimmers by quantifying the effect of physical impairment on passive and active drag. The thesis comprises five studies. Study 1 identified a significant relationship between normalised passive drag and the para-swimmers’ International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Class, but an inconsistent difference in normalised passive drag between adjacent classes. High within-class variability in passive drag indicates that the current classification system does not always differentiate clearly between swimming groups. Study 2 found that anthropometric features of para-swimmers, such as height and body mass, differed significantly between IPC Classes, whereas Shoulder Width, Chest Depth, Shoulder Girth and Torso Girth did not. A weak correlation existed between para-swimmers’ anthropometry and their passive drag, which indicates that other factors, such as impairment type, may be more important predictors of passive drag than anthropometry. Study 3 revealed that certain impairments, such as double-leg amputation above knee level, may predispose a para-swimmer to a relatively high passive drag which disadvantages them in competition. Study 4 compared two methods of estimating active drag during front crawl swimming: the Naval Architecture Based Approach (NABA) and the Active Towing Method (ATM). The means were not statistically different. Using a sensitivity analysis, the NABA was identified as the more reliable method of assessing active drag. Study 5 found that active and passive drag of elite para-swimmers are highly correlated but no relationship existed between active drag and International Paralympic Committee S Class (IPC S Class), indicating that factors other than impairment level may be more important in determining active drag. The relationships discovered between drag, IPC Class, anthropometry and impairments will contribute to the development of the future IPC Classification system.

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