(June 2009) –A team consisting of a DeSales University faculty member and two students from the sport and exercise science program and a St. Luke’s Hospital physician specializing in family and emergency medicine and primary care sports medicine was among the top winners at the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians Medical Conference held during the spring 2009 semester.
The team was one of 30 presenting research projects at the conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians. The DeSales project, “Susceptibility of hydrostatic weighing to intentional error in weight certification,” addressed the need by some athletes to “make weight” and recommended the careful examination of weight certification processes for wrestlers. The project won second place at the medical conference.
In weight class sports, such as wrestling, athletes and coaches often believe the best competitive advantage occurs at the lowest weight, causing some wrestlers to lose weight in harmful ways in order to “make weight.” The DeSales research project showed how a motivated wrestler can intentionally generate a body fat percentage higher than the true value so as to be allowed to lose more weight than would be permitted or safe according to rule and medical quidelines and compete in a weight class that is not safe.
Members of the DeSales team were: Father Douglas Burns, OSFS, coordinator of DeSales University’s Sports and Exercise Science Program; Kevin W. Waninger, M.D., M.S.,St. Luke’s Hospital, Departments of Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine and Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship, and DeSales sophomores, Joseph Yoha and Sam Reals, both sports and exercise science majors.
Wrestlers are required to have a minimum of seven percent body fat. Traditionally, the weight certification process for high school and college wrestlers has been to use the skinfold method to measure body fat. However, if a wrestler wants to appeal their first body fat estimate from a skin fold technique, their next option would be the hydrodensitometry or hydrostatic weighing (underwater) method. Hydrodensitometry is performed by weighing the body in air, and again while immersed in water. From the data, the volume of the body is calculated and then its density.
Members of the DeSales team learned that manipulating the weight process can be done very easily. They discovered that wrestlers can change their apparent weight by not breathing out as much air to be more buoyant and look fatter when their weight is recorded when using the hydrostatic weighing method.
“It is not necessarily unhealthy to be at 2 percent less than the minimum weight, but it is against the rules for the wrestler to be under 7 percent body fat,” said Yoha. “If a high school or college wrestler is below 5 percent body fat, it is illegal, as well as unhealthy because your body needs fat for energy and heat management.”
“For example, a wrestler who weighs 150 pounds should have at least 10.5 pounds of fat at 7 percent, rather than 7.5 pounds of fat at 5 percent,” said Yoha.
Father Doug Burns developed the idea and headed the research that studied 15 subjects representing wrestler body weight and composition. The subjects underwent testing for 1.5 to 2 hours, including skin fold, vital capacity, submerged weight tests and different hydrostatic weighing techniques.
The results of the project concluded that if hydrodensitometry is used for wrestling weight certification appeals, residual volumes should be measured and recorded along with the submerged weight, rather than just estimating vital capacity.
Also, athletic trainers and team physicians should be actively engaged in the weight certification process and have the health and safety of athletes as their highest concern.
“We recommend the hydrostatic weighing with the measured RV over the non-measured RV and skin folds method,” said Yoha. “We hope that states will adopt the method of measured RV because it is very difficult to modify your apparent body fat percentage by this method.”
According to Yoha, it will keep the wrestlers at a healthier level and they will not be motivated to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time.
Following the conference at St. Luke’s Hospital, Dr. Kevin W. Waninger presented the research project, which included findings from the testing of eight additional subjects, at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine in Tampa, Florida. The project was well received and had very positive feedback from the sports medicine professionals in attendance.
Father Burns and Dr. Waninger will be writing a formal abstract on the project and submit it to various sports medicine journals, so the findings of their research project can be available to those responsible for the primary care of athletes.
Both Yoha, of DuBois, Penna., and Reals, a native of Wichita, Kansas, who was raised in Reading, Pa., found the experience well worthwhile.
“We were glad for the recognition and positive feedback on our hard work,” said Yoha. “I hope to work in sports medicine and help athletes, so I found the whole experience very beneficial.”
“I gained a lot from working on the project,” said Reals. “It allowed me the opportunity to interact with professionals in the field and gain some very keen insight.”
Press Release: DeSales Sport and Exercise Science Team Among Top Winners at Medical Conference | Posted on: 5/28/2009
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu