Sunday, December 31, 2006

Weigh-in Presentation at the USRowing Convention

At the USRowing Convention in Portland a few weeks ago, Dr. Tim Hosea of the USRowing Medical Commission made a presentation on lightweights, weigh-ins, and weight loss. A year ago the Commission began working on a set of procedures for safe weight loss. The presentation took the form of a discussion, more than a specific recommendation, although guidelines were set out. Dr. Hosea was kind enough to send me the presentation (above) although without the benefit of hearing Dr. Hosea's presentation, some of the slides are a bit cryptic. With that caveat, here are a few highlights:

  • The Commission sees a need for some "fairly specific" guidelines for weight loss.

  • A lightweight female body fat percentage of 12.4% was shown, which appears to be an average of rowers at the Australian National Championships. This is an interesting number as it seems to fall in the "essential fat" range of some body fat percentage charts.

  • The NCAA is quite familiar with wrestling and wrestlers' weight loss practices, and seems to paint lightweight rowing with the same brush. While there is much to be learned from the wrestling experience (as this presentation points out), in terms of practices and appropriate institutional control I think rowing is much better.

  • The presentation states that female "rowers [are] more prone to disturbing eating practices and weight control methods than males." Since females in the general population are more prone to eating disorders than males, it's not clear what this tells us.

  • A convincing case is made for the dangers of dehydration.

  • There is a discussion of performance degradation with rapid weight loss.

  • Some suggestions are made about how to preselect lightweights based on body fat percentages at weight and the importance of avoiding large differences between in-season and off-season weight.

  • Princeton's Managed Weight Certification Program is presented.

Although the top lightweight programs seem to do a pretty good job of policing their athletes' weight loss practices, I think there would be some real benefits to having USRowing guidelines in place. First is perhaps the most obvious - those programs without dedicated lightweight programs and little expertise in weight loss practices will have guidelines to follow. A secondary benefit, however, relates to the NCAA. Governing bodies exist to enforce rules, therefore nothing pleases them more than to have rules to enforce. A set of rules for lightweights will show the NCAA that the sport is safe and under control, and rules developed by rowers will be much better than those that might be developed by an NCAA committee. The guidelines would be another tool to use to continue chipping away at the NCAA bias against lightweights.

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1 comment:

Kyle said...

This is interesting, I wouldn't have thought it was a problem.

How do rowing weight loss techniques differ from wrestling?