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Purpose: To identify the association between several contextual match factors, technical performance, and external movement demands on the subjective task load of elite rugby league players. Methods: Individual subjective task load, quantified using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Task Load Index (NASA-TLX), was collected from 29 professional rugby league players from one club competing in the European Super League throughout the 2017 season. The sample consisted of 26 matches (441 individual data points). Linear mixed modeling revealed that various combinations of contextual factors, technical performance, and movement demands were associated with subjective task load. Results: Greater number of tackles (effect size correlation ± 90% confidence intervals; η2 = .18 ± .11), errors (η2 = .15 ± .08), decelerations (η2 = .12 ± .08), increased sprint distance (η2 = .13 ± .08), losing matches (η2 = .36 ± .08), and increased perception of effort (η2 = .27 ± .08) led to most likely–very likely increases in subjective total task load. The independent variables included in the final model for subjective mental demand (match outcome, time played, and number of accelerations) were unclear, excluding a likely small correlation with technical errors (η2 = .10 ± .08). Conclusions: These data provide a greater understanding of the subjective task load and their association with several contextual factors, technical performance, and external movement demands during rugby league competition. Practitioners could use this detailed quantification of internal loads to inform recovery sessions and current training practices.
Mullen, Twist, Dobbin, and Highton are with the Dept of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Chester, Chester, United Kingdom. Mullen and Dobbin are with the Dept of Health Professions, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom. Daniels is with St Helens Rugby League Football Club, St Helens, United Kingdom.