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Adam Grainger, Paul Comfort and Shane Heffernan

Purpose: Partial body cryotherapy (PBC) has been shown to be beneficial for postexercise recovery; however, no study has demonstrated the effectiveness of PBC for recovery following elite rugby union training. Rugby union is a unique sport that involves high-velocity collisions and may induce greater performance decrements than other sports; thus, PBC could be beneficial. The application of PBC in “real world” has rarely been investigated during the competitive phase of a playing season and warranted investigation. Methods: In a counterbalanced sequential research design, professional rugby athletes (n = 18; age 25.4 [4.0] y; training age 7.2 [4.0] y; mass 99.8 [10.6] kg; height 188.3 [6.0] cm) were assigned to a 12-week PBC intervention, washout period (4 wk), and reassessed as their own controls. Self-reported well-being, muscle soreness, sleep quality, and countermovement jump height were assessed before and 40 hours after “real-world” training. Wilcoxon signed-rank tests and Cohen d were used for statistical analysis. Results: No differences were observed between PBC and control conditions (P > .05; d = 0.00–0.14) for well-being (−0.02% [0.08%] vs 0.01% [0.06%]), muscle soreness (−0.01% [0.11%] vs 0.01% [0.16%]), sleep quality (−0.03% [0.14%] vs 0.10% [0.29%]), or countermovement jump height (36.48–36.59 vs 38.13–37.52 cm; P = .54). Conclusions: These results suggest PBC is ineffective for the restoration of selected performance parameters during the performance maintenance phase of the competitive season. To ascertain the appropriation of its use, future investigations should seek to assess the use of cryotherapies at various phases of the elite rugby union competitive season.

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Niall Casserly, Ross Neville, Massimiliano Ditroilo and Adam Grainger

Purpose: The well-being of elite rugby union players has been intensely scrutinised in recent years. Understanding the longitudinal development of physical traits in junior players, alongside the moderating effect of simultaneous increases in body mass, can aid in improving programming and ultimately help junior players prepare for the demands of senior rugby. The purpose of this study was to investigate the longitudinal physical development of elite adolescent backs and forwards in a professional rugby union academy. Methods: A total of 15 players (age, 17.0 [0.2] y; body mass, 90 [14] kg; height, 183 [9] cm; n = 7 backs, n = 8 forwards) completed anthropometric measures and 3 primary performance assessments (countermovement jump, Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test level 1, and 10-m speed) at baseline, year 2, and year 3. Mixed modelling was used to assess player development over time and differences in this development by playing position. Magnitude-based inferencing was used to assess the uncertainty in the effects. Results: There was a substantial increase in countermovement jump height for both groups combined (0.9, ±0.4; standardized improvement, ±90% confidence limits; most likely substantial). Forwards exhibited a moderate-sized decrease in speed (−1.0, ±0.5; very likely substantial), and there was a large difference between groups with regards to speed change with backs outperforming forwards (1.5, ±0.9; very likely substantial). For forward, body mass change had a large negative association with 10-m speed (−1.9, ±0.7; most likely substantial) and Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test level 1 change (−1.2, ±0.9; very likely substantial). Conclusion: These findings provide novel normative data for longitudinal changes in junior rugby union players and suggest that coaches should account for changes in body mass when targeting increases in speed and aerobic fitness.