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A profile of soccer for athletes with cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury: with special reference to classification

Boyd, Craig (2016) A profile of soccer for athletes with cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury: with special reference to classification. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The aim of this thesis was to examine the performance characteristics of Paralympic 7-a-side soccer (CP soccer). Classification of eligible impairments is central to equitable competition and participation opportunities in Paralympic sport. Therefore the impact of classification was a focus throughout. A multi-disciplined approach helped establish a profile of CP soccer. Field-tests uncovered lower performance levels in elite CP players compared to those previously observed in elite able-bodied (AB) players. Inter-class contrasts identified that anaerobic tests discriminated between the least impaired class (FT8) and other eligible classes (FT5, FT6, FT7). FT8 players were capable of running faster, jumping higher, and were more agile. Time-motion analysis showed FT8 players also executed these actions, associated with game-defining moments, more frequently in matches. Technical analysis of soccer identified that FT8 players executed more passes, shots and dribbles than FT5-FT7 player but no inter-class differences were found for skill success rates. Overall, classes primarily defined by type and topology of CP (FT5-FT7 classes) exhibited overlapping performance capabilities. The mild severity of impairment that distinguishes the FT8 class and underpins their performance superiority poses a challenge for the classification process and equitable competition in the sport. A participation by-law exists to address this issue and complement the classification process. Despite restrictions to FT8 class participation, the by-law failed to neutralise FT8 players' superiority during match-play; notational match analysis revealed that FT8 players' involvement in goal scoring actions was disproportionately high. Analysis also indicated that goal scoring patterns in CP soccer differ from those previously observed in AB soccer. There are several applied and research implications from this thesis: knowledge derived from the performance data could facilitate CP soccer specific training, coaching and talent identification; future research development of valid strength and anaerobic activity tests could aid the classification process; and exploring alternative participation by-laws that uphold equitable competition, without restricting participation opportunities for eligible individuals, may be beneficial.

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