To compare the effects of sprint training with or without ball carry on the sprint performance of elite rugby league players.
Twenty-four elite rugby league players were divided into a ball-carry group (BC; n = 12) and a no-ball-carry group (NBC; n = 12). The players of the BC group were required to catch and carry the ball under 1 arm during each sprint, whereas the NBC group performed sprints without carrying a ball. The 8-wk training intervention took place during the precompetitive phase of the season and consisted of 2 sessions/wk. Sprint performance was measured before and after the training intervention with 40-m linear sprints performed under 2 conditions: with and without ball carry. Split times of 10, 20, and 40 m were recorded for further analysis. A 3-way (group × time × condition) factorial ANOVA was performed to compare changes in sprint performance with and without the ball, before and after the training intervention for both BC and NBC training groups.
The BC and NBC groups experienced similar improvements in 10-, 20-, and 40-m sprint times and accelerations, regardless of the condition under which the sprint tests were performed (P = .19).
Sprint training while carrying a rugby ball is as effective as sprint training without carrying a rugby ball for improving the sprint performance of elite rugby league players.