Return to Play in Elite Rugby Union: Application of Global Positioning System Technology in Return-to-Running Programs

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Global positioning systems (GPS) are widely used in sport settings to evaluate the physical demands on players in training and competition. The use of these systems in the design and implementation of rehabilitation and return-to-running programs has not yet been elucidated.


To demonstrate the application of GPS technology in the management of return to play in elite-club Rugby Union.


Case series.


Professional Rugby Union club team.


8 elite Rugby Union players (age 27.86 ± 4.78 y, height 1.85 ± 0.08 m, weight 99.14 ± 9.96 kg).


Players wore GPS devices for the entire duration of a club game.

Main Outcome Measures:

Variables of locomotion speed and distance were measured.


Differences in physical demands between playing positions were observed for all variables.


An analysis of the position-specific physical demands measured by GPS provides key information regarding the level and volume of loads sustained by a player in a game environment. Using this information, sports-medicine practitioners can develop rehabilitation and return-to-running protocols specific to the player position to optimize safe return to play.

Reid is with the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. Cowman is with Leinster Rugby, Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland. Green and Coughlan are with the Medical Dept, Irish Rugby Football Union, Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland.