Effects of massage with essential oils on bodily functionality in elite rifle shooting sport


PhD, Associate Professor N.S. Safronova1
PhD, Associate Professor O.F. Babushkina1
A.V. Fomenko1
N.N. Vikulova1
PhD D.V. Agapov1
1V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University, Simferopol

Keywords: rifle shooting, skilled athletes, heart rate control type, massage, essential oils.

Introduction. Severe competition in modern rifle shooting inevitably leads to an increase in the volume of training loads [5], where shooting practices and special physical training hold the leading position. These activities do not differ in the variety of training tools used and imply prolonged static tension and multiple repetitions of similar movements. Thus, there is a risk of physical, psycho-emotional and autonomic overload. Junior athletes are particularly vulnerable due to the morphofunctional immaturity of the body and imperfection of its regulatory systems. Therefore, there is a need for systematic monitoring of their functional state and, if necessary, timely correction using reasonable rehabilitation means and methods, including those of biomedical nature [1, 4, 8]. Despite the accumulated experience of application of massage, physiotherapy and water procedures, some aspects in this area are still being actively discussed, and the use of natural essential oils may become one of the promising directions [4, 6, 7].

Objective of the study was to analyze benefits of massage with essential oils on bodily functionality in the 14-15 year-old rifle shooters.

Methods and structure of the study. At the special training stage of pre-season, two groups of subjects were examined. Group I was made of junior rifle shooters (14-15 year-olds, Class I athletes, n=19), Group II - of adult rifle shooters (20-29 year-olds, MS/WCMS, n=8). The heart rate variability (HRV) test data were applied to evaluate the regulatory system functionality in the athletes using the hardware and software complex "ReoCom" (Kharkov) with the ECG channel and HRV analysis program.

During a 5-minute rest break, we recorded ECG in the standard lead II and registered the following indicators: the ratio of the number of pairs of cardio intervals with a difference of 50 milliseconds to the total number of cardio intervals in the array (pNN50,%); tension index (TI, r.u.); total spectrum power of HRV (TP, ms2) and its components: high frequency (HF, ms2), low frequency (LF, ms2), very low frequency (VLF, ms2), ultra low frequency (ULF, ms2); their contribution to the total amplitude of heart rate oscillations: (HF,%), (LF,%), (VLF,%), (ULF,%) [2]. According to the classification proposed by professor N.I. Shlyk (2003), the athletes were divided into the following subgroups: I, II, III, IV, in accordance with the types of autonomic regulation. Such indicators as SI, VLF, TP were used as diagnostic criteria [8].

Next, within one training mesocycle, 10 junior rifle shooters with type I regulation underwent a course of 15 massage sessions with essential oils, including a 20-25-minute rehabilitation massage of the upper limbs and back given 1 hour after the training session. The massage procedure was carried out with application of essential (lavender, coriander, mint) oils (4:2:2 drops per 100 ml of base) supplied by FPFIS Crimean Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture. Prior to the massage course, all athletes were subject to a skin reaction test to determine individual sensitivity to essential oils. At the end of the course, HRV was re-tested and reanalyzed. The study was carried out in compliance with the standards as provided by the 2000 Helsinki Declaration. The study data were processed by the standard statistical software package Statistica 6.0. Verification of compliance with the normal distribution was performed using the Shapiro-Wilk test. Statistical hypotheses were tested using the Student’s t-test in case of normal distribution, and the non-parametric Wilcoxon t-test in case of distribution other than normal, the critical level of significance (p) was deemed equal to 0.05.

Results and discussion. The initial test results showed that 10 (53%) junior athletes had high SI values, ranging from 105 to 255 c.u., as well as high VLF values. Moreover, the share of VLF (%), which amounted to 27.7±3.2% of the total spectrum power, exceeded the range of 6–15%, which can be considered a reflection of the athletes’ physical and psycho-emotional overexertion [8]. Against the background of decreased values ​​of pNN50, TP, and a decrease in the share of HF (%) to 24.9±2.9%, we observed an unbalanced ratio of the spectral components: LF>VLF>HF>ULF. As a result, the adolescents were classified into the subgroup with type I autonomic regulation, characterized by a moderate domination of the sympathetic and central channels of the heart rate regulation and tension of the regulatory mechanisms.

The next type III subgroup with a moderate domination of autonomic regulation included 5 (26%) junior rifle shooters, whose SI values ranged from 43 to 96 c.u. and relatively high TP values ​​- 8074±2690 ms2. The HF (%) and pNN50 values, equal to 55.0±8.0% and 41.8±9.7%, respectively, testified to the activation of the parasympathetic regulation unit. There were observed characteristic for this type of regulation correlations of spectral components: HF>LF>VLF>ULF. Such a state can be considered normal autonomic regulation with high adaptive capabilities of the body. Further study revealed that 4 (21%) adolescents with low SI values ​​(from 7 to 24 c.u.) and high TP values, which reached on the average 13,344±2,657 ms2. Their pNN50 values ​​ranged from 64 to 72%, their HF values (%) - 58.8±6.3%. This indicated a significant domination of the parasympathetic unit of the ANS over the sympathetic one. The athletes were classified into the subgroup with type IV regulation, characterized by a pronounced domination of the autonomous regulation circuit, which can be both of physiological and pathological nature and requires recommendations for a more thorough examination [8]. It should be noted that none of the rifle shooters had the signs of type II regulation with a significant domination of the central channel of regulation.

Special attention should be paid to the group of elite athletes, in which, according to the selected criteria, 8 (100%) subjects were classified as type III autonomic regulation, characterized by the optimal state of the regulatory systems against the background of the balanced power ratio of all spectrum waves: HF>LF>VLF>ULF. Their SI and TP values were 45.9±6.5 c.u. and 6629±1503 ms2.

In this regard, it can be assumed that type III with a moderate domination of the autonomic control is the most favorable type of regulation in rifle shooting sports. This is probably due to the regular restructuring of the autonomic regulation in the course of long-term adaptation to specific training and competitive loads. On the other hand, there is every reason to believe that, as a result of sports and natural selection, it is only the athletes characterized by a genetically determined low central activity and moderate domination of the autonomous regulation circuit who remain or become the most successful in shooting sports. It is widely believed that in adolescents, types I and III are genetically determined, while types II and IV are acquired [8]. A different point of view is that, depending on the constant factors of different modality and intensity of correlation between the central and autonomous channels of regulation, the type of autonomic regulation can change in any direction, both positive and negative [1]. Consequently, the targeted correction of the current type of regulation should be determined by a reasonable choice of the means used. In our study, the majority of junior athletes were characterized by a steady domination of the central and sympathetic regulation circuit formed in the region of the limbic-reticular apparatus, possibly under the influence of psycho-emotional and physical stressors. Therefore, it was expedient to reduce the degree of tension of the regulatory mechanisms by using reflex-humoral effects of massage, potentiated by essential oils, and their additional influence on the olfactory data entering the structures of the reticular formation.

After the impact, a follow-up HRV test revealed a decrease in the activity of the sympathetic and central channels of the heart rate regulation in all 10 subjects. At the same time, we observed a pronounced (p<0.01) decrease in SI, the average value of which amounted to 109.3±14.4 c.u. There was an increase in the total spectrum power - to 3506±411 ms², (p<0.05), an increase in the HF ​​(%), (p<0.05), and pNN50 values, (p<0.05). Moreover, the test data in 6 adolescents began to correspond to autonomic regulatory type III.

Therefore, massage with essential oils in application to the junior athletes contributed to the optimization of the regulatory system functionality, reducing its tension against the background of a moderate domination of autonomic regulation of the heart rhythm.

Conclusions. The analysis of the HRV parameters in the elite rifle shooters at the special training stage revealed the optimal level of the regulatory system functionality, characterized by the moderate domination of the autonomic regulation of HRV. The massage with essential oils was found beneficial as verified by the variation of the type of vegetative regulation from central to autonomic, and can be recommended as a means of correction of functional tension of the regulatory systems.


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Corresponding author: andryushenko-lil@mail.ru


Objective of the study was to analyze benefits of massage with essential oils on bodily functionality in the elite rifle shooting sport. Elite junior (14-15 years old Class I athletes, n=19) and adult (20-29 year-olds qualified MS/ WCMS, n=8) rifle shooters were sampled for the study. The heart rate variability (HRV) test data were applied to split up the sample into four groups by the autonomic regulation and regulatory system functionality types. Junior group I (n=10, regulation type I) was subject to a rehabilitation massage course with application of essential (lavender, coriander, mint) oils followed by the HRV tests. The massage was found beneficial as verified by the functionality control improvements, mitigation of tension and moderate domination of the autonomic regulation of HRV. The study also classified the adult elite group with autonomic regulation type III with a moderate domination of the autonomic control.