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The Physical Demands of Wheelchair Tennis Match Play: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis.

Sports Medicine 2024 May 10
BACKGROUND: Wheelchair tennis, a globally popular sport, features a professional tour spanning 40 countries and over 160 tournaments. Despite its widespread appeal, information about the physical demands of wheelchair tennis is scattered across various studies, necessitating a comprehensive systematic review to synthesise available data.

OBJECTIVE: The aim was to provide a detailed synthesis of the physical demands associated with wheelchair tennis, encompassing diverse factors such as court surfaces, performance levels, sport classes, and sexes.

METHODS: We conducted comprehensive searches in the PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus databases, covering articles from inception to March 1, 2023. Forward and backward citation tracking from the included articles was carried out using Scopus, and we established eligibility criteria following the Population, Exposure, Comparison, Outcome, and Study design (PECOS) framework. Our study focused on wheelchair tennis players participating at regional, national, or international levels, including both juniors and adults, and open and quad players. We analysed singles and doubles matches and considered sex (male, female), sport class (open, quad), and court surface type (hard, clay, grass) as key comparative points. The outcomes of interest encompassed play duration, on-court movement, stroke performance, and physiological match variables. The selected study designs included observational cross-sectional, longitudinal, and intervention studies (baseline data only). We calculated pooled means or mean differences with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) and employed a random-effects meta-analysis with robust variance estimation. We assessed heterogeneity using Cochrane Q and 95% prediction intervals.

RESULTS: Our literature search retrieved 643 records, with 24 articles meeting our inclusion criteria. Most available information focused on international male wheelchair tennis players in the open division, primarily competing in singles on hard courts. Key findings (mean [95% CI]) for these players on hard courts were match duration 65.9 min [55.0-78.8], set duration 35.0 min [28.2-43.5], game duration 4.6 min [0.92-23.3], rally duration 6.1 s [3.7-10.2], effective playing time 19.8% [18.9-20.7], and work-to-rest ratio 1:4.1 [1:3.7-1:4.4]. Insufficient data were available to analyse play duration for female players. However, for the available data on hard court matches, the average set duration was 34.8 min [32.5-37.2]. International male players on hard court covered an average distance per match of 3859 m [1917-7768], with mean and peak average forward speeds of 1.06 m/s [0.85-1.32] and 3.55 m/s [2.92-4.31], respectively. These players executed an average of 365.9 [317.2-422.1] strokes per match, 200.6 [134.7-299.0] per set, 25.4 [16.7-38.7] per game, and 3.4 [2.6-4.6] per rally. Insufficient data were available for a meta-analysis of female players' on-court movement and stroke performance. The average and peak heart rates of international male players on hard court were 134.3 [124.2-145.1] and 166.0 [132.7-207.6] beats per minute, and the average match heart rate expressed as a percentage of peak heart rate was 74.7% [46.4-100]. We found no studies concerning regional players or juniors, and only one study on doubles match play.

CONCLUSIONS: While we present a comprehensive overview of the physical demands of wheelchair tennis, our understanding predominantly centres around international male players competing on hard courts in the open division. To attain a more comprehensive insight into the sport's physical requirements, future research should prioritise the inclusion of data on female and quad players, juniors, doubles, and matches played on clay and grass court surfaces. Such endeavours will facilitate the development of more tailored and effective training programmes for wheelchair tennis players and coaches. The protocol for this systematic review was registered a priori at the International Platform of Registered Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Protocols (Registration ).

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