EXERCISE AND QUALITY OF LIFE
Research article
Volume 5, No. 1, 2013, 31-41
UDC 572.5:796.322-055.15
Anthropometric and cardiovascular
characteristics of young elite male
handball players according to playing
positions
Alexandra Cselkó
University of Pecs, Doctoral School of Health Sciences, Pecs, Hungary
University of Pecs, Department of Leisure Sports and Recreation, Pecs, Hungary
Zita László
University of Pecs, Department of Individual Sports, Pecs, Hungary
Éva Tékus
University of Pecs, Doctoral School of Health Sciences, Pecs, Hungary
University of Pecs, Department of Sportbiology, Pecs, Hungary
Márta Wilhelm*
University of Pecs, Department of Leisure Sports and Recreation, Pecs, Hungary
Abstract
The purpose of the present study was to examine the anthropometric parameters and
cardiopulmonary functions of young handball players in different playing positions. 15 male
handball players from first division (mean age: 16.06±0.63 yrs) participated in our research who
were divided by their playing positions. First anthropometric parameters, body composition and
pulmonary functions in rest were measured. Then physiological changes of the players were tested
with Bruce protocol. We found that wings differed the most in morphological characteristics from
other players. We did not find significant differences in pulmonary functions among positions. The
highest values of Tidal volume in the vita maxima test were found in pivots (2.82±0.15 l) which
is significantly higher than Tidal volume of goalkeepers (p=0.006). The highest mean value of
maximal oxygen uptake was recorded (73.93±9.41 ml/kg/min) in wings. Altogether in our study
important differences were seen in physique and in performance also among young handball
players.
Keywords: handball, anthropometry, endurance, pulmonary function, Bruce protocol
* Corresponding author. University of Pecs, Department of Leisure Sports and Recreation, Ifjusag Street 6, 7624
Pecs, Hungary, e-mail: mwilhelm@gamma.ttk.pte.hu
© 2013 Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Novi Sad, Serbia
A. Cselko et al.
Introduction
Handball is one of the most popular team sports in European countries. In the last years the
game became faster therefore athletic skills are even more important for players. Short maximal
intensity movements and medium intensity actions for longer time alternately and repetitively
appear in this sport game. The intermittent actions, changes of offense and defense are large-scale
exercises for players thus complex physical conditions are needed.
Players must have sport specific endurance for success, therefore cardiorespiratory
functions of handball players were intensively studied (Buccheit et al., 2009; Loftin et al., 1996;
Luszczyk et al., 2010; Vujkov, Đukic & Drid, 2010). It has been shown earlier that some of the
anthropometric parameters are essential factors for modern handball profile (stature, body mass,
body fat percentage, specific girth, length and skinfold parameters) equally in young (Ibnziaten et
al., 2002) and adult players (Hasan, Rahaman, Cable & Reilly, 2007; Sibila, Vuleta & Pori, 2004).
There are significant differences in physical characteristics between playing positions (Massuca &
Fragoso, 2011; Srhoj, Marinovic & Rogulj, 2002).
According to earlier research handball players must have well developed basic and specific
motor abilities
(conditional and coordination skills) paired with appropriate anthropometric
parameters for highest efficiency on the court (Chaouachi et al., 2009; Galal El-Din, Zapartidis
& Ibrahim, 2011; Matthys et al., 2011; Mohamed et al., 2009; Sporis, Vuleta, D., Vuleta Jr., D.
& Milanović, 2010; Zapartidis, Vareltzis et al., 2009; Zapartidis, Toganidis et al., 2009; Ziv &
Lidor, 2009). Wings covered the greatest distance in match time and in specific running protocols
(Cuesta, 1991; Sibila et al., 2004) on the field. Besides endurance accurate shots help to win the
game which are also influenced by certain anthropometric parameters of the athletes (Gorostiaga et
al., 2005; Marques, Tillaar, Vescovi & González-Badillo, 2007; Rivilla-Garcia, Navarro, Grande,
Ignatova & Sampedro, 2010; Skoufas, Kotzamanidis, Hatzikotoylas, Bebetsos, & Patikas, 2003;
Zapartidis, Kororos, Christodoulidis, Skoufas & Bayios, 2011).
One study measured longitudinal changes in anthropometric, physical parameters of young
age groups: 13-17 years old handball players and found that coaches choose players for different
positions by maturity and some anthropometrical parameters (Matthys, Vaeyens et al., 2013).
The aim of this study was (a) to measure the anthropometric characteristics of young male
handball players; (b) to obtain data on physical performance of athletes with special attention to
positions.
Method
Participants
Fifteen young male handball players participated in this study (mean age: 16.06±0.63 yrs,
Wings: 15.86±0.65 yrs, Back court players: 16.03±0.66 yrs, Pivots: 16.22±0.49 yrs, Goalkeepers:
16.19±1.15 yrs). All athletes play in one of the first division handball clubs in Hungary. We divided
the group of participants according to their playing positions: wings (W; n=3), back court players
(B; n=7), pivots (P; n=3) and goalkeepers (GK; n=2). Each subject underwent anthropometric
measurements and a vita-maxima treadmill test. Participants wore proper clothing during all
measurements.
32
Anthropometric and cardiovascular data of handballers
The study was approved by the Ethics Comette of the University and all subjects gave their
consent to participate. Informed consent of University of Pecs, Institute of Sport Sciences and
Physical Education was also given for this protocol.
Anthropometric characteristics
Twelve variables of girths (acromion, chest, biceps, forearm, wrist, hand, abdominal,
buttocks, thigh, calf, knee and ankle) were measured with anthropometric tape-measure. Breadths
of acromion, chest, humerus, femur and chest depth were tested with a sliding caliper. Data of
arm and forearm lengths, iliocristale heights, sitting heights and seven skinfolds (biceps, triceps,
subscapular, pectoralis, suprailiaca, thigh, calf) were also measured. Each parameter was assessed
on the dominant side of subjects.
BMI was calculated as the ratio of body mass and the square of stature in meter (kg/m2).
Bioimpedance analyzer (Omron BF300) was used to estimate body fat percentage and fat mass.
Somatotypes of players were determined by Heath-Carter’s modified method (Carter, Rose &
Duquest, 1983). Metric (MIX) and plastic (PLX) indexes were also calculated (Conrad, 1963).
Pulmonary functions
Pulmonary functions [forced vital capacity (FVC), FVC%, forced expiratory volume in the
1st second (FEV1), Tiffeneau-index (FEV1/FVC), peak expiratory flow (PEF), forced expiratory
time (FET)] were tested with a spirometer (Spirodoc). Measurements were carried out twice and
the better result was recorded.
Treadmill test
Bruce treadmill protocol was used to measure the cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory
functions (Bruce, 1971). Each subject performed the exercise until exhaustion (vita maxima). At
the start the speed of the treadmill was 2.74 km/h (incline gradient 10%). At three minutes intervals
the speed and gradient were increased. A 12-lead electorcardiograph analyzed cardiac parameters.
At the start of the protocol resting heart rate (RHR, bpm), later on maximal heart rate (HRmax)
was also recorded. The gas analyzer (AT-60/Bruel gas analyser) collected data breath by breath
during the test. Tidal volume (VT), maximal minute ventilation (VE), O2 consumption, relative
maximal oxygen uptake (relVO2max), CO2 production, respiratory quotient (RQ) and metabolic
rate (MET) were continuously recorded. Oxygen pulse (VO2/HR) was monitored also.
Statistical analysis
One way ANOVA was applied for testing the significant differences of anthropometric
parameters and cardiorespiratory functions between playing positions (Tukey post-hoc test).
Normality and homogeneity was checked. Statistical significance was set at p≤0.05.
33
A. Cselko et al.
Results
Anthropometric characteristics
The selected anthropometric characteristics and body composition of young male handball
players are summarized in Table 1-2. Statistically significant differences were found between
playing positions in lean body mass, biceps girth, buttock girth, thigh girth, ankle girth, chest
breadth, forearm length, metric index and mesomorphic type. There were no significant differences
in stature, body mass, body fat percentage and skinfolds based on the analysis of Tukey post-hoc
test (Table 1).
Table 1
Anthropometric parameters of players and differences by playing positions
W (n=3)
B (n=7)
P (n=3)
GK (n=2)
F
P
Age (years) 15.86±0.65
16.03±0.66
16.22±0.49
16.19±1.15
0.162
0.920
Stature
175.67±10.02
187.79±6.09
184.00±3.61
179.00±2.83
2.835
0.087
(cm)
Body mass
61.43±5.05
66.93±7.19
80.50±7.54
77.85±18.17
3.371
0.058
(kg)
Body fat
11.90±0.85
14.43±6.01
19.67±1.44
17.85±13.36
1.006
0.426
%
Lean body
54.10±4.28*
56.92±3.76
64.77±5.27*
62.72±4.55
4.230
0.032*
mass (kg)
Girths
Acromion
107.00±3.5
107.71±3.64
112.17±2.75
112.00±7.07
1.553
0.256
(cm)
Chest(cm)
88.33±4.04
86.71±4.34
94.50±3.12
94.75±10.25
3.435
0.056
Biceps(cm)
25.83±0.76*
26.43±1.64*
30.17±1.60
31.25±4.59*
5.476
0.015*
Forearm(cm) 26.00±1
25.93±0.93
28.33±1.26
28.50±2.83
4.000
0.038*
Wrist(cm)
16.67±0.58
16.96±0.83
18.33±1.15
17.50±0.70
2.411
0.122
Abdominal
74.33±2.08
76.29±2.77
85.00±5.00
82.00±14.14
2.859
0.086
(cm)
Buttocks(cm)
91.33±2.87*
94.64±1.49
101.83±1.76*
98.25±10.96
4.463
0.028*
Thigh(cm)
49.83±2.75*
50.93±3.18*
59.00±1.00*
57.00±7.07
5.730
0.013*
Calf(cm)
35.00±1.73
35.43±4.25
39.83±1.26
40.25±3.89
2.054
0.165
Ankle(cm)
23.93±0.11*
25.79±0.76
27.33±0.76*
27.00±2.83*
5.890
0.012*
Breadths
Acromion(cm)
41.50±1.32
41.86±1.65
44.50±3.00
41.75±1.77
1.648
0.235
Lengths
Arm(cm)
91.50±20.37
90.36±10.35
82.67±2.52
83.00±5.66
0.510
0.684
Forearm(cm) 45.33±0.58
47.00±2.40*
42.33±2.52*
41.50±2.12*
5.196
0.018*
Somatotype
Endomorphy
2.34±0.21
2.87±0.65
3.99±1.71
4.39±1.89
2.331
0.130
Mesomorphy
3.35±1.74*
2.19±0.89*
4.67±1.27*
6.65±0.16*
9.283
0.002**
Ectomorphy
4.02±1.29
5.34±1.16*
2.67±1.39*
2.33±1.86*
4.553
0.026*
Plastic index
89.67±1.26
89.54±2.64
95.17±4.65
92.00±6.36
2.119
0.156
Metric index
-0.20±0.60
-1.12±0.59*
0.73±0.93*
-0.09±0.09
5.689
0.015*
Notes: W: Wing, B: Back court player, P: Pivot, GK: Goalkeeper * p ≤ 0.05; ** p ≤ 0.01
34
Anthropometric and cardiovascular data of handballers
The tallest players are B (187.79±6.09cm), and P have biggest weight (80.50±7.54kg). W
players have the lowest body fat percentage (11.90±0.85%) and generally the thinnest skinfolds
(Table 2.). W and P significantly differed in most of the anthropometric parameters (Table 1). After
the statistical analysis P have more lean body mass (p=0.044), greater buttocks girth (p=0.026),
thigh girth (p=0.031) and ankle girth (p=0.012) than W.
Table 2
The lean body mass and selected skinfolds of young handball players
W (n=3)
B (n=7)
P (n=3)
GK (n=2) F
P
Lean body mass
54.10±4.28*
56.92±3.76
64.77±5.27*
62.72±4.55
4.230
0.032*
(kg)
Skinfolds
Biceps (mm)
4.00±0.00
3.71±0.95
6.00±1.00
7.00±4.24
3.447
0.055
Triceps (mm)
5.00±0.00
7.43±2.69
10.33±4.51
11.00±7.07
1.736
0.217
Subscapular (mm)
7.33±1.53
7.71±1.60
11.00±8.66
11.50±3.53
0.880
0.481
Pectoral (mm)
4.67±1.15
5.29±2.36
6.67±1.53
9.5±4.95
1.952
0.180
Suprailiac (mm)
6.67±1.15
8.43±2.64
13.33±8.50
16.00±8.49
2.190
0.147
Thigh (mm)
11.33±2.52
13.00±4.55
17.00±3.00
18.50±7.78
1.623
0.240
Calf (mm)
9.00±3.60
7.57±1.51
10.67±4.73
11.50±4.95
1.183
0.361
Notes: W: Wing, B: Back court player, P: Pivot, GK: Goalkeeper; * p ≤ 0.05
Furthermore significant differences were found between B and P in thigh girth (p=0.025),
chest girth (p=0.036), forearm length (0.043) and metric index (p=0.011). We registered longer
forearm in B than P. According to our data GK have significantly greater biceps girth (p=0.053)
and ankle girth (p=0.04) than W, longer forearm (p= 0.04) and biceps girth (p=0.049) than B.
After somatotyping (Table 1) W are classified as meso-ectomorphic (2-3-4), B as endo-
ectomorphic (3-2-5), P are mesomorphic (4-5-3) and GK are endo-mesomorphic (4-7-2). Players
have well developed bone structure and musculature according to their PLX, P having the biggest
(Table 1).
Pulmonary functions in rest
There were no statistically significant differences between positions in pulmonary functions
tested with spirometer. The mean FVC of handball players was 4.71±0.69 l. Each parameter was
compared to the reference data of their age-groups. Based on these data FVC of players does
not differ significantly from the average adult man. Players have a normal FEV1, mean value:
4.15±0.50 l/s and PEF, mean value: 7.83±1.91 l/s. Tiffeneau-index of subjects is over 80% due
to the quick expiratory functions, which is essential for good performance. FET was 2.26±0.92s.
Cardiopulmonary functions on exercise treadmill test
Results of the spirometry
RelVO2max was highest of W (73.93±9.41 ml/kg/min) and the lowest of GK (60.65±7.99
ml/kg/min), but significant differences were not found (Figure 1).
35
A. Cselko et al.
Notes: W: Wing, B: Back court player, P: Pivot, GK: Goalkeeper
Figure 1. Registered mean values of maximal oxygen uptake (relVO2max) in spiroergometric
measurement by positions
The mean VT of P was 2.82±0.15 l, which is significantly higher than values of GK
(p=0.006) / Figure 2/.
Notes: W: Wing, B: Back court player, P: Pivot, GK: Goalkeeper; * p ≤ 0.05; ** p ≤ 0.01
Figure 2. The recorded mean maximum tidal volume (VT) of handball players
In the treadmill test we found statistically significant differences in VE at the stage 5 (8.0
km/h, 18% gradient), stage 6 (8.8 km/h, 20% gradient) and stage 7 (9.6 km/h, 22% gradient)
between positions (Figure 3). Ventilatory breakpoint occurred generally at stage 4 (6.7 km/h, 16%
gradient) except GK with breakpoint appearing at stage 3 (5.4 km/h, 14% gradient).
36
Anthropometric and cardiovascular data of handballers
Notes: W: Wing, B: Back court player, P: Pivot, GK: Goalkeeper; ** p ≤ 0.01
Figure 3. Changes of mean minute ventilation (VE) during the treadmill test by playing positions
The W showed the lowest values of lung minute ventilation during the treadmill test.
Therefore the maximal mean volume of minute ventilation of P (165.53±13.60 l/min) is significantly
higher than recorded values of B (128.09±12.71 l/min) and W (128.77±18.42 l/min).
Players reached RQ: 1.1 relatively late, the average was at stage 5 (8.0 km/h, 18% gradient).
At the end of the test the mean RQ was 1.23±0.09.
Evaluation of the cardiovascular parameters
The lowest mean RHR was recorded in W (87.67±2.52 bpm). During the treadmill test the
mean HRmax was 176.33±7.94 bpm all the athletes (Figure 4). Significant differences were not
seen between positions, but the highest HRmax of W (176.33±2.08 bpm) was measured and the
lowest was of P (167.67±8.02 bpm).
Note: W: Wing, B: Back court player, P: Pivot, GK: Goalkeeper
Figure 4. Changes in mean heart rate (HR) during the stages of vita maxima treadmill test of
different playing positions
37
A. Cselko et al.
As it can be seen in Figure 5, players P produced superior maximal oxygen pulse (VO2/
HR=31.47±1.94 ml/bpm). Players at different positions differed not only in HRmax, but in time
spent on treadmill also.
Note: W: Wing, B: Back court player, P: Pivot, GK: Goalkeeper; * p ≤ 0.05 ** p ≤ 0.01
Figure 5. Mean values of oxygen pulse (VO2/HRmax) of handball players measured in a vita
maxima test
The mean time of treadmill test of W was the top (20.56±0.01 min), which is significantly
higher than of B (15.55±2.58 min), P (15.51±1.45 min) and GK (13.80±0.34 min). Abnormalities
were not seen on ECG curves.
Discussion
The present study investigated possible differences among young male handball players by
positions in anthropometric characteristics and cardiopulmonary functions. Differences between
positions are visible in many morphological parameters (lean body mass, biceps girth, buttock
girth, thigh girth, ankle girth, chest breadth, forearm length, metric index and mesomorphy).
W presented the best physical condition according to time spent on treadmill and maximal
oxygen uptake. As of anthropometric data wings differ the most from other player positions
similarly to previous studies (Chaouachi et al., 2009; Sibila et al., 2004; Srhoj et al., 2002). In our
research all players are taller than 14 years old Greek male handball players, but they have lower
body mass except goalkeepers (Zapartidis, Vareltzis et al., 2009). Earlier researchers registered
higher values in thigh girth (56.16 cm), skinfolds of biceps, triceps and suprailiaca of 14 years
old Spanish players (Ibnziaten et al., 2002). The studied Hungarian young handball players have
greater body shape, arm length and have almost the same circumference of upper arm, thigh and
calf than Flemish Under-16 handball players (Mohamed et al., 2009).
According to these results players in various positions indeed have different anthropometric
characteristics as would be expected. The lower lean body mass and lower stature enable W to
create quick departures, while B having greater height generally performs overarm shots above the
defenders. P has robust stature and higher weight because of specific movements in the defense
wall.
38
Anthropometric and cardiovascular data of handballers
However according to Matthys, Fransen et al. (2013) besides body structure differences,
young players differ in their maturation (biological age). B are not only significantly bigger in size
and better in fitness tests, but also more mature, which might be a disadvantage in an older age
group later in adulthood.
Pulmonary functions of players in rest show that mean FVC values of B are the highest.
The comparison of pulmonary functions in exercise with other studies is difficult due to use of
different treadmill protocols. Mean recorded HRmax of players was 176.33±2.08 bpm that did not
reach the estimated values (203.95 bpm). The recorded HRmax is 86% of the estimated peak HR,
consequently the exercise was submaximal. This may result from the fact that players heart rate
during a match over half time is in the aerobic zone: 80-85% (Cervar, 1998; Loftin et al., 1996).
However since players did not reach their expected HRmax the protocol suggested by Hamlin et
al. (2012) might be better for testing handball players.
According to the registered VO2max players have an excellent aerobic capacity. We
recorded the highest mean values of oxygen consumption in W that indeed is necessary for them
who generally cover the most distance in a match time (Cuesta, 1991; Sibila et al., 2004). The
athletes reach the peak of VO2max at this age therefore this is a very sensitive period to develop
proper aerobic capacity.
The mean VO2/HRmax of players is 26.44±3.72 ml/bpm. High oxygen uptake is coupled
with low heart rate, which refers to an excellent fitness level as well. Based on these data the
cardiac function of players is economical.
We found that young handball players presented higher VO2max and VO2/HRmax, but less
values of HRmax, VE and VT than male handball players on a treadmill test (Vujkov et al., 2010).
Greater VO2max and more efficient breathing are important factors for better performance.
Significant differences were found of young male team handball players between positions
of measured anthropometric and cardiopulmonary functions. The differences are the consequences
of the characteristics of modern team handball. Besides performance measurements it is important
to apply morphological studies for selection of young players already.
Data obtained from complex fitness measurements (anthropometric parameters, HRmax,
VO2max from exercise treadmill tests) would be useful for professional coaches in selection and
talent identification, especially by playing positions. Data also can be applied for planning specific
training programs for the different positions.
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