BACKGROUND: Loss of hand strength is a predictor of mortality in aging populations. Despite reliance on the hands to participate in equestrian driving activity, no existing studies focus on associations of hand strength to athletic performance. Therefore, this study 1) established baseline handgrip of equestrian combined drivers in standing and task-specific positions, 2) determined endurance of task-specific handgrip, 3) compared handgrip strength to normative data, and 4) evaluated associations of handgrip and equestrian-specific variables.

METHODS: There were 51 combined drivers (9 males, 42 females) ages 21-78 who completed a survey, standing handgrip, and grip strength and endurance in a task-specific position. Sixty-three percent of participants were 50 years or older. The dynamometer grip bar was normalized by hand size for standing tests; to duplicate sport-specific tasks, the bar was set to the closest setting. Significances were determined at p < 0.05.

RESULTS: Drivers with more than 30 years of experience demonstrated highest summed standing (73.1 ± 5.2 kg) and summed sitting (59.9 ± 6.3 kg) grip strength. Females 60-years and older had greater handgrip endurance (Χ2 = 8.323, df = 2, p = .0156) in non-dominant (left) hands. Males (60%) reported more cold weather fatigue than females. Glove wearing was associated with bilateral endurance balance; a higher proportion of endurance balance between dominant and non-dominant (49% high-high and 29% low-low; Χ2 = 11.047, df = 1, p = .0009) was realized. There were no associations of handgrip and prior injury.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results have implications in understanding task-specific and normative grip strengths in aging equestrian populations. Bilateral balance in handgrip strength and endurance is important particularly in maintaining strength in non-dominant hands over time. Equestrian driving sport promotes greater endurance in older females. Strength can be improved by participating in combined driving, and engagement in this sport over several years' benefits hand strength over time. This cohort of equestrian participants provides evidence that participating in hand-specific activities promotes greater strength, which has been previously shown to improve aging outcomes.

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Published in European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, v. 19, article no. 2.

© 2021 The Author(s)

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Funding for traveling was covered by a general laboratory fund provided by the University of Kentucky.

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The datasets used and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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