Was the Conconi test validated by sporting success, expert opinion or good science?
The application of the scientific method in sport demands that regular and
standardised testing must be implemented by the coach or scientist to determine whether the intervention, for instance training, has had the desired effect on sporting performance. However, the test administered by the coach or scientist must have been rigorously evaluated for acceptable validity and reliability. Moreover, the judgment as to the validity of a test must not be influenced by the popularisation of a test. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, a popular incremental field test for endurance athletes (Conconi Test) has been uncritically accepted as valid by some coaches and sport scientists. The Conconi Test is assumed a non-invasive measure of the anaerobic threshold through the identification of a coincident deflection in heart rate. This paper briefly considers the methodology and biological explanation for the Cononic Test. The paper also elaborates on the historical context within which the popular Conconi Test was developed and how factors other than scientific evidence have led to the popularisation of this test amongst sport scientists and coaches. Users of this test should consider the possibility that at least some part of the accepted validity of the Conconi Test was due to appeals to authority (eminent scientists, prominent athletes, magnitude of the feat, medal counts, records), popularity and coincidental correlation (performance and test result).
Key words: Testing; Validity; Conconi; Anaerobic threshold; Heart rate