Analysis of Physical Collisions in Elite National Rugby League Match Play

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Objective:

To investigate the impact forces of collision events during both attack and defense in elite rugby league match play and to compare the collision profiles between playing positions.

Participants:

26 elite rugby league players.

Methods:

Player collisions were recorded using an integrated accelerometer in global positioning system units (SPI-Pro X, GPSports). Impact forces of collisions in attack (hit-ups) and defense (tackles) were analyzed from 359 files from outside backs (n = 78), adjustables (n = 97), wide-running forwards (n = 136), and hit-up forwards (n = 48) over 1 National Rugby League season.

Results:

Hit-up forwards were involved in 0.8 collisions/min, significantly more than all other positional groups (wide-running forwards P = .050, adjustables P = .042, and outside backs P = .000). Outside backs experienced 25% fewer collisions per minute than hit-up forwards. Hit-up forwards experienced a collision within the 2 highest classifications of force (≥10 g) every 2.5 min of match play compared with 1 every 5 and 9 min for adjustables and outside backs, respectively. Hit-up forwards performed 0.5 tackles per minute of match play, 5 times that of outside backs (ES = 1.90; 95% CI [0.26,3.16]), and 0.2 hit-ups per minute of match play, twice as many as adjustables.

Conclusions:

During a rugby league match, players are exposed to a significant number of collision events. Positional differences exist, with hit-up and wide-running forwards experiencing greater collision events than adjustables and outside backs. Although these results may be unique to the individual team’s defensive- and attacking-play strategies, they are indicative of the significant collision profiles in professional rugby league.

The authors are with the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Cloe Cummins at cloe.cummins@sydney.edu.au.
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