Factors Affecting Match Running Performance in Professional Australian Football

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

To examine the influence of a range of individual player characteristics and match-related factors on activity profiles during professional Australian football matches.

Methods:

Global positioning system (GPS) profiles were collected from 34 professional Australian football players from the same club over 15 competition matches. GPS data were classified into relative total and high-speed running (HSR; >20 km/h) distances. Individual player aerobic fitness was determined from a 2-km time trial conducted during the preseason. Each match was classified according to match location, season phase, recovery length, opposition strength, and match outcome. The total number of stoppages during the match was obtained from a commercial statistics provider. A linear mixed model was constructed to examine the influence of player characteristics and match-related factors on both relative total and HSR outputs.

Results:

Player aerobic fitness had a large effect on relative total and HSR distances. Away matches and matches lost produced only small reductions in relative HSR distances, while the number of rotations also had a small positive effect. Matches won, more player rotations, and playing against strong opposition all resulted in small to moderate increases in relative total distance, while early season phase, increased number of stoppages, and away matches resulted in small to moderate reductions in relative total distance.

Conclusions:

There is a likely interplay of factors that influence running performance during Australian football matches. The results highlight the need to consider a variety of contextual factors when interpreting physical output from matches.

Ryan is with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. Coutts and Kempton are with the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, Australia. Hocking is with Carlton Football Club, Melbourne, Australia.

Coutts (aaron.coutts@uts.edu.au) is corresponding author.