To assess the impact of different repeated-high-intensity-effort (RHIE) bouts on player activity profiles, skill involvements, and neuromuscular fatigue during small-sided games.
22 semiprofessional rugby league players (age 24.0 ± 1.8 y, body mass 95.6 ± 7.4 kg).
During 4 testing sessions, they performed RHIE bouts that each differed in the combination of contact and running efforts, followed by a 5-min off-side small-sided game before performing a second bout of RHIE activity and another 5-min small-sided game. Global positioning system microtechnology and video recordings provided information on activity profiles and skill involvements. A countermovement jump and a plyometric push-up assessed changes in lower- and upper-body neuromuscular function after each session.
After running-dominant RHIE bouts, players maintained running intensities during both games. In the contact-dominant RHIE bouts, reductions in moderate-speed activity were observed from game 1 to game 2 (ES = –0.71 to –1.06). There was also moderately lower disposal efficiency across both games after contact-dominant RHIE activity compared with running-dominant activity (ES = 0.62–1.02). Greater reductions in lower-body fatigue occurred as RHIE bouts became more running dominant (ES = –0.01 to –1.36), whereas upper-body fatigue increased as RHIE bouts became more contact dominant (ES = –0.07 to –1.55).
Physical contact causes reductions in running intensity and the quality of skill involvements during game-based activities. In addition, the neuromuscular fatigue experienced by players is specific to the activities performed.
Johnston, Gabbett, and Speranza are with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Jenkins is with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.