Water Sensation During Passive Propulsion for Expert and Nonexpert Swimmers

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Abstract

This study determined whether expert swimmers, compared with nonexperts, have superior movement perception and physical sensations of propulsion in water. Expert (national level competitors, n = 10) and nonexpert (able to swim 50 m in > 3 styles, n = 10) swimmers estimated distance traveled in water with their eyes closed. Both groups indicated their subjective physical sensations in the water. For each of two trials, two-dimensional coordinates were obtained from video recordings using the two-dimensional direct linear transformation method for calculating changes in speed. The mean absolute error of the difference between the actual and estimated distance traveled in the water was significantly lower for expert swimmers (0.90 ± 0.71 meters) compared with nonexpert swimmers (3.85 ± 0.84 m). Expert swimmers described the sensation of propulsion in water in cutaneous terms as the “sense of flow” and sensation of “skin resistance.” Therefore, expert swimmers appear to have a superior sense of distance during their movement in the water compared with that of nonexpert swimmers. In addition, expert swimmers may have a better perception of movement in water. We propose that expert swimmers integrate sensations and proprioceptive senses, enabling them to better perceive and estimate distance moved through water.

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