The regular monitoring of physical fitness and sport-specific performance is important in elite sports to increase the likelihood of success in competition. This study aimed to systematically review and to critically appraise the methodological quality, validation data, and feasibility of the sport-specific performance assessment in Olympic combat sports like amateur boxing, fencing, judo, karate, taekwondo, and wrestling. A systematic search was conducted in the electronic databases PubMed, Google-Scholar, and Science-Direct up to October 2017. Studies in combat sports were included that reported validation data (e.g., reliability, validity, sensitivity) of sport-specific tests. Overall, 39 studies were eligible for inclusion in this review. The majority of studies (74%) contained sample sizes <30 subjects. Nearly, 1/3 of the reviewed studies lacked a sufficient description (e.g., anthropometrics, age, expertise level) of the included participants. Seventy-two percent of studies did not sufficiently report inclusion/exclusion criteria of their participants. In 62% of the included studies, the description and/or inclusion of a familiarization session (s) was either incomplete or not existent. Sixty-percent of studies did not report any details about the stability of testing conditions. Approximately half of the studies examined reliability measures of the included sport-specific tests (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] = 0.43-1.00). Content validity was addressed in all included studies, criterion validity (only the concurrent aspect of it) in approximately half of the studies with correlation coefficients ranging from r = -0.41 to 0.90. Construct validity was reported in 31% of the included studies and predictive validity in only one. Test sensitivity was addressed in 13% of the included studies. The majority of studies (64%) ignored and/or provided incomplete information on test feasibility and methodological limitations of the sport-specific test. In 28% of the included studies, insufficient information or a complete lack of information was provided in the respective field of the test application. Several methodological gaps exist in studies that used sport-specific performance tests in Olympic combat sports. Additional research should adopt more rigorous validation procedures in the application and description of sport-specific performance tests in Olympic combat sports.
Keywords: martial arts; methodological quality; reliability; sensitivity; specific assessment; validity.