Gianna F. Mastrofini, Alex F. Miller, Megan S. Ward, Harry P. Cintineo, Alexa J. Chandler, Blaine S. Lints, Bridget A. McFadden, Shawn M. Arent, FACSM. University of South Carolina, Cayce, SC.

Background: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in nationwide lockdowns and quarantine periods, creating a barrier for athletes to maintain their usual fitness routines. Athletes and coaches needed to adjust training to accommodate for shutdowns and reduced access to typical training modalities. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine changes in performance and body composition variables throughout a yearlong COVID-19 modified tennis season in male collegiate athletes. Materials and Methods: Performance and body composition metrics of collegiate male tennis players (N=8) were assessed at the beginning and end of the fall 2020 academic semester [(Pre2020) & (Post2020)] as well as the beginning and end of the spring 2021 semester [(Pre2021) & (Post2021)] during a COVID-19 modified yearlong tennis season. Athletes arrived at the laboratory >2 hours fasted, having abstained from caffeine and vigorous exercise >24 hours prior. Body composition was assessed via air displacement plethysmography to determine percent body fat (%BF) and fat-free mass (FFM). Following a standardized dynamic warmup, athletes completed maximal countermovement vertical jump tests, with both hands on hips (CMJHOH) and arm swing method (CMJAS), using a digital contact mat. This was followed by a whole-body dynamic reaction time (RT) test (Trazer system). A VO2max test was used to determine maximal aerobic capacity and ventilatory threshold (VT). The best of two trials were reported for RT and vertical jump height. Linear mixed-effects models were used to analyze changes over time with significance set at P<0.05. Results: FFM was the lowest Pre2020 compared to all other time points (P<0.001). CMJHOH increased from Pre2020 to Pre2021 (ΔCMJHOH = 2.4 ± 1.2 cm; P=0.045) before returning to baseline values at Post2021. There were no statistically significant changes in %BF, CMJAS, RT, VO2max, or VT (P>0.05). Conclusions: Improvements in lower body power and FFM occurred as the academic year progressed. This may be a result of increased workload demands as athletes returned to structured training following the off-season. These significant improvements may be due to lower baseline values post COVID-19 lockdowns. In addition, the return-to-baseline CMJHOH values at the end of the season may provide an indication of athlete readiness resulting from the cumulative demands of the yearlong tennis season.

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