The effect of small-sided game formats on physical and technical performance in wheelchair basketball

Purpose: To examine effects of different small-sided games (SSG) on physical and technical aspects of performance in wheelchair basketball (WB) players. Design: Observational cohort study. Methods: Fifteen highly trained WB players participated in a single 5v5 (24-sec shot clock) match and three 3v3 SSGs (18-sec shot-clock) on a: i) full (FC); ii) half (HC) and; iii) modified length court (MOD). During all formats, player’s activity profiles were monitored using an indoor tracking system and inertial measurement units. Physiological responses were monitored via heart rate and rating of perceived exertion. Technical performance i.e. ball handling was monitored using video analysis. Repeated measures ANOVA and effect sizes (ES) were calculated to determine the statistical significance and magnitude of any differences between game formats. Results: Players covered less distance and reached lower peak speeds during HC (P ≤ 0.0005; ES ≥ very large) compared to all other formats. Greater distances were covered and more time was spent performing moderate and high speed activity (P ≤ 0.008; ES ≥ moderate) during FC compared to all other formats. Game format had little bearing on physiological responses and the only differences in technical performance observed were in relation to 5v5. Players spent more time in possession, took more shots and performed more rebounds in all 3v3 formats compared to 5v5 (P ≤ 0.028; ES ≥ moderate). Conclusions: Court dimensions affect the activity profiles of WB players during 3v3 SSG, yet had little bearing on technical performance when time pressures (shot clocks) were constant. These findings have important implications for coaches to understand which SSG format may be most suitable for physically and technically preparing WB players.