Be Aware of the Benefits of Drafting in Sports and Take Your Advantage: A Meta-Analysis

Floor A. P. van den brandt*, Mohammed Khudair, Florentina J. Hettinga, Marije T. Elferink-Gemser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Purpose. In competitive sports, optimizing performance is the key. An interesting venue to explore is to consider drafting as a pacing strategy. The purpose of this study is to identify the magnitude of drafting benefits for biomechanical, physiological, and psychobiological parameters in and between athletes in cycling, kayaking, running, skating, skiing, and swimming. Design. A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods. Systematic searches were performed in PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase databases.

Results. In total, 205 studies were found, from which 22 were relevant (including 232 participants and 548 observations). Methodological quality was high for all the included articles. The meta-analyses for all parameters indicated strong evidence for a benefit of drafting, with moderate effects between leading and drafting athletes found for the heart rate (3.9%), VO2 (8.9%), power output (11.3%), and rating of perceived exertion (10.4%). Large effect sizes were found for blood lactate (24.2%), VE (16.2%), and EMG (56.4%). A moderator analysis showed differences between sports on the effect of drafting with most benefits in cycling.

Discussion. Based on the observed effects of drafting in the biomechanical, physiological, and psychobiological parameters, it can be considered as an element of pacing, a strategy to conserve energy and optimize performance.

Conclusion. There is strong evidence that drafting benefits athletes, with varying levels of effect for athletes in different sports. Knowledge about the magnitude of benefits can be used to improve training sessions, race strategies, and performance in competition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3254847
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalTranslational Sports Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2023

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