Monitoring of functional state of national teams' members in university sport pedagogical management system: selection of relevant criteria


Associate Professor S.Sh. Namozova
Dr.Hab., Professor Sh.Z. Khubbiev
PhD R.S. Minvaleev
PhD L.V. Shadrin
Saint Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg

Keywords: university sport, functional test.

Introduction. In the sport hierarchy, university sport is found in between ordinary physical exercises and elite sports, since a student spends most of his time and energy learning. In the best-case scenario, we may speak of university sport as a higher level of motor activity in relation to ordinary physical exercises as part of the educational process (physical education as academic discipline). Herewith, sport activity (training, participation in competitions) should not lead to fatigue, although a winning attitude during competitions requires some increased physical exertion and time expenditure. In this regard, efficient management of the training process is particularly topical, and is based on the strictly quantitative estimation, first and foremost, of the functional state, which makes it possible, on the one hand, to avoid overtraining, and on the other - should serve as a sensitive marker of the adequacy of training. In other words, efficient management of the training process is to be based on the principle of feedback, which signals are testified by various functional tests. The most well-known functional tests of the cardiovascular system are: Harvard step test, Ruffier test, Letunov’s test, timed inspiratory and expiratory capacity tests, and Romberg’s test to assess the degree of tension of the nervous system. They are described in the literature and widely used in monitoring of the functional state of active athletes [1, 2]. However, the appropriateness of testing specifically in university sport required a separate study in view of the necessity to maintain balance between sport and health objectives.

Objective of the study was to scientifically substantiate the most significant evaluation criteria for monitoring the functional state of student-athletes.

Methods and structure of the study. Monitoring of the functional state, which can be carried out intermittently from once (several times) per week to twice a year (each semester), included non-invasive methods only:

1. Anthropometric measurements (age, weight, height)

2. Exercise stress tests (Harvard step test, Ruffier test, Letunov’s test)

3. Respiratory samples (timed inspiratory and expiratory capacity tests)

4. Romberg’s neurological test

5. Vegetative tonus at rest (Kerdo index)

For the purposes of completeness, we will briefly describe those tests, the results of which were used in this paper [5].

The Harvard step test is based on the registration of HR after graduated physical load and enables to assess the progress of recovery processes. Physical load consists in ascending a 50 cm step for males and a 43 cm step for females. The ascending time is 5 minutes, the ascending and descending frequency, changing legs – 30 times per minute. The pulse rate is measured in a sitting position during the first 30 seconds starting from the 2nd-4th minutes of the recovery period. The test results are expressed in the Harvard step test index (HSTI):

where t – step ascending time at a set pace (300 seconds in case the test is passed);

Р1, Р2, Р3 – pulse rate during the first 30 seconds of the 2nd, 3rd и 4th minutes of the recovery period, respectively.

Harvard step test data evaluation:

HSTI, points

Assessment of physical working capacity

Below 55



Below average





90 and more


To make quantitative evaluation of the efficiency of the training process, we also used the Ruffier stress test, defined by the formula:where p1 – pulse rate in a sitting position for 15 seconds after 5-minute rest, then 30 squats for 45 seconds; p2 – pulse rate during the first 15 seconds right after the squats; p3 – pulse rate during the last 15 seconds of the 1st minute of rest. The determined Ruffier index was interpreted as:

  • good – 0.1-5;
  • average – 5.1-10;
  • satisfactory – 10.1-15;
  • poor – 15.1-20.

Letunov’s three-stage test did not give any strictly quantitative results, which would enable to compare the picked teams, so if is considered unreasonable to use this test for evaluation of their functional state.

The timed inspiratory capacity) and timed expiratory capacity tests were taken using the standard methods.

The Romberg’s neurological test was used in a more complex form: the testee stands on one leg, the heel of the other leg touches the knee-cap of the support leg, meanwhile, his/her eyes are closed, arms are extended forward.

Stable posture equilibrium for more than 15 seconds, with no tremor of fingers or eyelids, is estimated as "good"; swinging, slight tremor of eyelids or fingers while holding the position for 15 seconds - "satisfactory"; pronounced tremor of eyelids or fingers while holding the position for less than 15 seconds - "unsatisfactory". Swinging, and what is more, rapid loss of balance indicate coordination disturbance.

To determine the vegetative tonus at rest, we used the Kerdo vegetative index, calculated based on the current parameters of blood circulation – cardiac rhythm (heart rate per 1 minute) and peripheral vascular tone (diastolic blood pressure) [6]:

where D - diastolic blood pressures (mm Hg), R – pulse rate per 1 min. At IR<0, the actual vegetative reactivity of the body is characterized as parasympathicotonia, at IR>0 – as sympathicotonia, at IR=0 – as vegetative balance (aethonium). The determined value of the vegetative tonus reflects the predominance of ergotropic (sympathicotonia) or trophotropic (parasympathicotonia) processes at rest.

A total of 237 students of StPSU, engaged in different sports in the picked teams, had been examined by November 1, 2015 (150 boys and 87 girls, aged 17-23 (mean age – 20.5 y.o.). The descriptive parameters of the study sampling are presented in Table 1:

Table 1.

Examined sampling

Mean value

Standard deviation

Standard error of mean

Boys, n=150

Age (y.o.)




Height (cm)




Weight (kg)




Girls, n=87

Age (y.o.)




Height (cm)




Weight (kg)




Results and discussion. In the first approximation, the test results revealed the uselessness of the timed inspiratory and expiratory capacity tests, as well as the Romberg’s test, when assessing the functional state in particular, since breath holding time and time of stability (Romberg's pose) show in a greater degree the inhibitory and/or coordinating function of the central nervous system rather than the result of the previous training activity.

The Harvard step test showed an excellent or close to excellent results in almost all students of both sexes, who had been subject to the monitoring, which testifies to the insensitivity of the given stress test to the efficiency of the previous training activity, which is confirmed by the comparative analysis of the results of the Harvard step test and other tests. Namely, in contrast to the results of the Harvard step test, the Ruffier stress test was more sensitive of the level of functional fitness of athletes engaged in the picked teams of SPSU. In particular, it turned out that, as of November 1, 2015, the majority of boys (108 out of 150) and girls (63 out of 87) engaged in sports teams had either satisfactory or poor values of the heart muscle reactivity (the Ruffier index less than 10), which indicates the insufficiency of the previous training activity. Thus, the Ruffier test can be used to conduct regular monitoring of the efficiency of the ongoing training as one of the feedback signals.

The second significant feature is the Kerdo vegetative index, which reflects the actual predominance of ergotropic (energy-consuming) or trophotropic (energy-restoring) processes at rest [5]. When it comes to the compensation of excessive energy consumption, it is the prevalence at rest of the parasympathetic effects on the cardiovascular system that is considered adequate for an athlete (a certain degree of bradycardia). That is why negative values ​​of the Kerdo index (prevalence of the parasympathetic effects) can be considered as the second signal of feedback in the control of the efficiency of the recovery processes after training [4]. In our sampling, it was the sympathetic effects that prevailed in the majority of subjects (the Kerdo index was above zero in 111 out of 150 boys and in 64 out of 87 girls).

The determined numerical values of the Ruffier (hereinafter R) and Kerdo indices (hereinafter KI) suggest their interrelationship, which can be verified by the use of the Pearson’s correlation coefficient χ2 for the corresponding contingency tables (Table 2).

Table 2.  Actual distribution of athletes subject to monitoring with negative (IR<0) and positive (IK>0) values of Kerdo index, as well as with Ruffier index values less than and more than 10 (R<10, R>10)









































χ= 6.354



χ= 3.953



p = 0.011714<0.05


p = 0.046791<0.05


As seen from Table 2, there is a statistically significant correlation between the values of the Kerdo and Ruffier indices in boys and girls. Therefore, the Kerdo indices obtained at rest, and Ruffier indices obtained during exercise testing are interchangeable. Since it is easier to determine the Kerdo vegetative index, rather than the Ruffier index, it will be sufficient to use only the Kerdo index for the purpose of control over the functional state of male and female athletes.


  • The functional testing of students, engaged in different sports in picked teams, can only be conducted using the Ruffier stress test and evaluation of the Kerdo vegetative index at rest.
  • The Kerdo vegetative index at rest is more suitable for providing the current feedback when monitoring the functional state of athletes training within the scope of university sport.

The study was carried out on account of the grant from the Russian Science Foundation (Project №14-50-00069), Saint Petersburg State University.


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This paper draws a comparison of various functional tests (Letunov’s test, Ruffier test, Harvard step test, Kerdo vegetative index, and timed inspiratory and expiratory capacity tests, and Romberg’s neurological test) carried out among the students of a rather representative group (150 boys and 87 girls aged 17-23), who trained in the picked teams of Saint Petersburg State University (SPSU) in order to further identify those tests that serve the purposes of university sport. It has been established that functional testing in view of the necessity to maintain balance between sport and health objectives is reasonable if limited to the Ruffier test and evaluation of the vegetative tonus at rest using the Kerdo vegetative index. Using the Pearson criterion χ2, we have found a statistical correlation between the Ruffier and Kerdo indices, which can be used for express-evaluation of the current functional state, keeping only to the Kerdo vegetative index.