The relationship between core stability and athletic performance among female university athletes
De Bruin, Marizanne
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Introduction: Literature on the effect of core stability on athletic performance in different sport codes is limited. Questions remain as to whether core stability should be considered as a component in itself or as different components, as well as the assessment thereof, and if a relationship exists with athletic performance in different sport codes. Objective: The primary objectives of this research study were to establish an anthropometric profile of female university hockey, netball, running, soccer and tennis athletes and to determine if a relationship exists between core stability and athletic performance. Population: Data were collected from 83 female athletes from the University of the Free State participating in hockey, netball, middle- and long-distance running (400 m, 800 m, 1 500 m and 3 000 m), soccer and tennis in the 2018/2019 sport season. Methods: This was a quantitative, cross-sectional study. Core stability was assessed using the isometric back extension (IBE) test, lateral flexion (LF) test and the abdominal flexion (AF) test to assess core strength (in Newton) and core endurance (in seconds), respectively, and the core stability grading system using a pressure biofeedback unit to assess core motor control. Athletic performance was assessed using the forty-metre sprint, T-test, vertical jump and the medicine ball chest throw. All athletes executed three trials of each test in a randomised order and the best value of each test was used for analysis. Correlations between each of the seven core stability tests and the four athletic performance tests were determined, overall, and separately by sport. Furthermore, the effect of core stability on athletic performance assessments was assessed using ANCOVA, fitting the factor of sport, and the covariates age, height, weight, body fat percentage and BMI of the athletes, as well as various interaction terms. Results: This study depicted the anthropometric profiles of female university athletes and found that runners have the greatest height and netball the greatest body weight, body fat percentage and BMI compared to the other sport codes. Overall, there is a statistically significant difference with respect to age, body weight, body fat percentage and BMI, but height difference is not statistically significant between sports. The highest mean value for core strength was observed in hockey, whilst tennis showed the lowest, as measured by the IBE, LF and AF characteristics. The highest mean value of core endurance was observed in runners, and the lowest in tennis, as measured by the same characteristics as core strength, only for time. The highest value of core motor control was noted in runners (grade 5) and the lowest in netball (grade 1). The highest average percentage of female university athletes obtained a grade 3. Overall, there is a statistically significant difference in sports with respect to all three characteristics of core strength and core endurance as well as the core motor control component. When considering the correlations between core stability and athletic performance for all sport codes, all correlations of core strength, core endurance and core motor control with athletic performance were weak (r<0.2) and moderately weak (r=0.2-0.5). However, when the different core tests were considered separately, the correlations for the LF characteristic of core strength was moderately strong (r=0.5-0.8) for the medicine ball chest throw and strong (r=0.8-1.0) for the vertical jump. When considered for the different sport codes separately, moderately strong correlations (r=0.2-0.5) were found in all sport codes only- for core strength with certain athletic performance tests. Overall, there is a statistically significant difference between sports with respect to all four athletic performance characteristics. Conclusion: Correlations were found between core stability and athletic performance, even though some correlations were weak and moderately weak. It can also be concluded that different sport codes require different components of core stability, and have different sets of skills based on the position played and event. Therefore, core stability can be considered as an important modality to improve athletic performance, however, it should not be the main focus in exercise training programmes.