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On-field physical activity of Special Olympics athletes and Unified Partners during the 2022 Special Olympics World Unified Cup.

BACKGROUND: Special Olympics is a sport organisation spearheading efforts to increase physical activity accessibility through inclusive sport. The Unified SportsĀ® initiative brings together Special Olympics athletes (with intellectual disabilities) and Unified partners (without a disability) in sport training and competition on the same team. The study aims to objectively evaluate differences in on-field physical activity levels between athletes and partners during the 2022 Special Olympics World Unified Cup, an international soccer (i.e., football) competition. Participants were Special Olympics athletes (n = 96; 44 females, 52 males) and Unified partners (n = 70; 34 females and 36 males) competing in the women's and men's tournaments.

METHODS: On-field actigraph accelerometry measured physical activity from 166 players, over 29 matches, and totalling 493 player-matches.

RESULTS: In the women's tournament, nearly identical estimates of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels (MVPA) were observed between athletes and partners (P = .409). However, a significant group difference was observed within a specific physical activity intensity category as partners accrued more minutes of very vigorous physical activity than athletes (P < .001). In the men's tournament, no significant differences were also observed between athletes and partners for minutes of MVPA (P = .341), but athletes engaged in significantly more vigorous physical activity (P < .001), and partners had more minutes of very vigorous physical activity (P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that on-field physical activity levels were similar between players with and without intellectual disabilities during Unified Sports competition.

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