The National Basketball Association (NBA) has an extremely demanding competition schedule, requiring its athletes to compete in 82 regular-season games over a 6-mo period (∼3.4 games/wk). Despite the demanding schedule and high value of athletes, there is little public information on the specific game and training demands required to compete in the NBA. Although provisions in the NBA collective-bargaining agreement allow for research designed to improve player health and broaden medical knowledge, such information is sparse in the available literature. In relation to the physical demands of the NBA, the current lack of information likely results from multiple factors including limited understanding of (basketball-related) emerging technologies, impact of specific league rules, and steps taken to protect players in the age of Big Data. This article explores current limitations in describing specific game/training demands in the NBA and provides perspectives on how some of these challenges may be overcome. The authors propose that future collaborations between league entities, NBA clubs, commercial partners, and outside research institutions will enhance understanding of the physical demands in the NBA (and other health- and performance-related areas). More detailed understanding of physical demands (games, practices, and travel) and other health-related areas can augment player-centered decision making, leading to enhanced player care, increased availability, and improved physical performance.
Blake D. McLean, Donald Strack, Jennifer Russell, and Aaron J. Coutts
Blake D. McLean, Kevin White, Christopher J. Gore, and Justin Kemp
Purpose: There is debate as to which environmental intervention produces the most benefit for team sport athletes, particularly comparing heat and altitude. This quasi-experimental study aimed to compare blood volume (BV) responses with heat and altitude training camps in Australian footballers. Methods: The BV of 7 professional Australian footballers (91.8 [10.5] kg, 191.8 [10.1] cm) was measured throughout 3 consecutive spring/summer preseasons. During each preseason, players participated in altitude (year 1 and year 2) and heat (year 3) environmental training camps. Year 1 and year 2 altitude camps were in November/December in the United States, whereas the year 3 heat camp was in February/March in Australia after a full exposure to summer heat. BV, red cell volume, and plasma volume (PV) were measured at least 3 times during each preseason. Results: Red cell volume increased substantially following altitude in both year 1 (d = 0.67) and year 2 (d = 1.03), before returning to baseline 4 weeks postaltitude. Immediately following altitude, concurrent decreases in PV were observed during year 1 (d = −0.40) and year 2 (d = −0.98). With spring/summer training in year 3, BV and PV were substantially higher in January than temporally matched postaltitude measurements during year 1 (BV: d = −0.93, PV: d = −1.07) and year 2 (BV: d = −1.99, PV: d = −2.25), with year 3 total BV, red cell volume, and PV not changing further despite the 6-day heat intervention. Conclusions: We found greater BV after training throughout spring/summer conditions, compared with interrupting spring/summer exposure to train at altitude in the cold, with no additional benefits observed from a heat camp following spring/summer training.
Blake D. McLean, Cloe Cummins, Greta Conlan, Grant Duthie, and Aaron J. Coutts
Purpose: To determine the relationship between drill type and accelerometer-derived loads during various team-sport activities and examine the influence of unit fitting on these loads. Methods: Sixteen rugby league players were fitted with microtechnology devices in either manufacturer vests or playing jerseys before completing standardized running, agility, and tackling drills. Two-dimensional (2D) and 3-dimensional (3D) accelerometer loads (BodyLoad™) per kilometer were compared across drills and fittings (ie, vest and jersey). Results: When fitted in a vest, 2D BodyLoad was higher during tackling (21.5 [14.8] AU/km) than during running (9.5 [2.5] AU/km) and agility (10.3 [2.7] AU/km). Jersey fitting resulted in more than 2-fold higher BodyLoad during running (2D = 9.5 [2.7] vs 29.3 [14.8] AU/km, 3D = 48.5 [14.8] vs 111.5 [45.4] AU/km) and agility (2D = 10.3 [2.7] vs 21.0 [8.1] AU/km, 3D = 40.4 [13.6] vs 77.7 [26.8] AU/km) compared with a vest fitting. Jersey fitting also produced higher BodyLoad during tackling drills (2D = 21.5 [14.8] vs 27.8 [18.6] AU/km, 3D = 42.0 [21.4] vs 63.2 [33.1] AU/km). Conclusions: This study provides evidence supporting the construct validity of 2D BodyLoad for assessing collision/tackling load in rugby league training drills. Conversely, the large values obtained from 3D BodyLoad (which includes the vertical load vector) appear to mask small increases in load during tackling drills, rendering 3D BodyLoad insensitive to changes in contact load. Unit fitting has a large influence on accumulated accelerometer loads during all drills, which is likely related to greater incidental unit movement when units are fitted in jerseys. Therefore, it is recommended that athletes wear microtechnology units in manufacturer-provided vests to provide valid and reliable information.
Blake D. McLean, Aaron J. Coutts, Vince Kelly, Michael R. McGuigan, and Stuart J. Cormack
The purpose of this study was to examine the changes in neuromuscular, perceptual and hormonal measures following professional rugby league matches during different length between-match microcycles.
Twelve professional rugby league players from the same team were assessed for changes in countermovement jump (CMJ) performance (fight time and relative power), perceptual responses (fatigue, well-being and muscle soreness) and salivary hormone (testosterone [T] and cortisol [C]) levels during 5, 7 and 9 d between-match training microcycles. All training was prescribed by the club coaches and was monitored using the session-RPE method.
Lower mean daily training load was completed on the 5 d compared with the 7 and 9 d microcycles. CMJ fight time and relative power, perception of fatigue, overall well-being and muscle soreness were signifcantly reduced in the 48 h following the match in each microcycle (P < .05). Most CMJ variables returned to near baseline values following 4 d in each microcycle. Countermovement jump relative power was lower in the 7 d microcycle in comparison with the 9 d microcycle (P < .05). There was increased fatigue at 48 h in the 7 and 9 d microcycles (P < .05) but had returned to baseline in the 5 d microcycle. Salivary T and C did not change in response to the match.
Neuromuscular performance and perception of fatigue are reduced for at least 48 h following a rugby league match but can be recovered to baseline levels within 4 d. These fndings show that with appropriate training, it is possible to recover neuromuscular and perceptual measures within 4 d after a rugby league match.
Blake D. McLean, David Buttifant, Christopher J. Gore, Kevin White, Carsten Liess, and Justin Kemp
Little research has been done on the physiological and performance effects of altitude training on team-sport athletes. Therefore, this study examined changes in 2000-m time-trial running performance (TT), hemoglobin mass (Hbmass), and intramuscular carnosine content of elite Australian Football (AF) players after a preseason altitude camp.
Thirty elite AF players completed 19 days of living and training at either moderate altitude (~2130 m; ALT, n = 21) or sea level (CON, n = 9). TT performance and Hbmass were assessed preintervention (PRE) and postintervention (POST1) in both groups and at 4 wk after returning to sea level (POST2) in ALT only.
Improvement in TT performance after altitude was likely 1.5% (± 4.8–90%CL) greater in ALT than in CON, with an individual responsiveness of 0.8%. Improvements in TT were maintained at POST2 in ALT. Hbmass after altitude was very likely increased in ALT compared with CON (2.8% ± 3.5%), with an individual responsiveness of 1.3%. Hbmass returned to baseline at POST2. Intramuscular carnosine did not change in either gastrocnemius or soleus from PRE to POST1.
A preseason altitude camp improved TT performance and Hbmass in elite AF players to a magnitude similar to that demonstrated by elite endurance athletes undertaking altitude training. The individual responsiveness of both TT and Hbmass was approximately half the group mean effect, indicating that most players gained benefit. The maintenance of running performance for 4 wk, despite Hbmass returning to baseline, suggests that altitude training is a valuable preparation for AF players leading into the competitive season.