While there are various avenues for performance improvement in college American football (AF), there is no comprehensive evaluation of the collective array of resources around performance, physical conditioning, and injury and training/game characteristics to guide future research and inform practitioners. Accordingly, the aim of the present review was to provide a current examination of these areas in college AF. Recent studies show that there is a wide range of body compositions and strength characteristics between players, which appear to be influenced by playing position, level of play, training history/programming, and time of season. Collectively, game demands may require a combination of upper- and lower-body strength and power production, rapid acceleration (positive and negative), change of direction, high running speed, high-intensity and repetitive collisions, and muscle-strength endurance. These may be affected by the timing of and between-plays and/or coaching style. AF players appear to possess limited nutrition and hydration practices, which may be disadvantageous to performance. AF injuries appear due to a multitude of factors—strength, movement quality, and previous injury—while there is also potential for extrinsic factors such as playing surface type, travel, time of season, playing position, and training load. Future proof-of-concept studies are required to determine the quantification of game demands with regard to game style, type of opposition, and key performance indicators. Moreover, more research is required to understand the efficacy of recovery and nutrition interventions. Finally, the assessment of the relationship between external/internal-load constructs and injury risk is warranted.
Hugh H.K. Fullagar, Robert McCunn, and Andrew Murray
Hugh H.K. Fullagar, Andrew Govus, James Hanisch, and Andrew Murray
To investigate the recovery time course of customized wellness markers (sleep, soreness, energy, and overall wellness) in response to match play in American Division I-A college football players.
A retrospective research design was used. Wellness data were collected and analyzed for 2 American college football seasons. Perceptions of soreness, sleep, energy, and overall wellness were obtained for the day before each game (GD–1) and the days after each game (GD+2, GD+3, and GD+4). Standardized effect-size (ES) analyses ± 90% confidence intervals were used to interpret the magnitude of the mean differences between all time points for the start, middle, and finish of the season, using the following qualitative descriptors: 0–0.19 trivial, 0.2–0.59 small, 0.6–1.19 moderate, 1.2–1.99 large, <2.0 very large.
Overall wellness showed small ES reductions on GD+2 (d = 0.22 ± 0.09, likely [94.8%]), GD+3 (d = 0.37 ± 0.15, very likely), and GD+4 (d = 0.29 ± 0.12, very likely) compared with GD–1. There were small ES reductions for soreness between GD–1 and GD+2, GD+3, and GD +4 (d = 0.21 ± 0.09, likely, d = 0.29 ± 0.12, very likely, and 0.30 ± 0.12, very likely, respectively). Small ES reductions were also evident between GD–1 and GD+3 (d = 0.21 ± 0.09, likely) for sleep. Feelings of energy showed small ESs on GD+3 (d = 0.27 ± 0.11, very likely) and GD+4 (d = 0.22 ± 0.09, likely) compared with GD–1.
All wellness markers were likely to very likely worse on GD+3 and GD+4 than on GD–1. These findings show that perceptual wellness takes longer than 4 d to return to pregame levels and thus should be considered when prescribing training and/or recovery.
Robert McCunn, Hugh H.K. Fullagar, Sean Williams, Travis J. Halseth, John A. Sampson, and Andrew Murray
Purpose: American football is widely played by college student-athletes throughout the United States; however, the associated injury risk is greater than in other team sports. Numerous factors likely contribute to this risk, yet research identifying these risk factors is limited. The present study sought to explore the relationship between playing experience and position on injury risk in NCAA Division I college football players. Methods: Seventy-six male college student-athletes in the football program of an American NCAA Division I university participated. Injuries were recorded over 2 consecutive seasons. Players were characterized based on college year (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior) and playing position. The effect of playing experience and position on injury incidence rates was analyzed using a generalized linear mixed-effects model, with a Poisson distribution, log-linear link function, and offset for hours of training exposure or number of in-game plays (for training and game injuries, respectively). Results: The overall rates of non-time-loss and time-loss game-related injuries were 2.1 (90% CI: 1.8–2.5) and 0.6 (90% CI: 0.4–0.8) per 1000 plays, respectively. The overall rates of non-time-loss and time-loss training-related injuries were 26.0 (90% CI: 22.6–29.9) and 7.1 (90% CI: 5.9–8.5) per 1000 h, respectively. During training, seniors and running backs displayed the greatest risk. During games, sophomores, juniors, and wide receivers were at greatest risk. Conclusions: Being aware of the elevated injury risk experienced by certain player groups may help coaches make considered decisions related to training design and player selection.
Hugh H.K. Fullagar, Rob Duffield, Sabrina Skorski, David White, Jonathan Bloomfield, Sarah Kölling, and Tim Meyer
The current study examined the sleep, travel, and recovery responses of elite footballers during and after long-haul international air travel, with a further description of these responses over the ensuing competitive tour (including 2 matches).
In an observational design, 15 elite male football players undertook 18 h of predominantly westward international air travel from the United Kingdom to South America (–4-h time-zone shift) for a 10-d tour. Objective sleep parameters, external and internal training loads, subjective player match performance, technical match data, and perceptual jet-lag and recovery measures were collected.
Significant differences were evident between outbound travel and recovery night 1 (night of arrival; P < .001) for sleep duration. Sleep efficiency was also significantly reduced during outbound travel compared with recovery nights 1 (P = .001) and 2 (P = .004). Furthermore, both match nights (5 and 10), showed significantly less sleep than nonmatch nights 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 (all P < .001). No significant differences were evident between baseline and any time point for all perceptual measures of jet-lag and recovery (P > .05), although large effects were evident for jet-lag on d 2 (2 d after arrival).
Sleep duration is truncated during long-haul international travel with a 4-h time-zone delay and after night matches in elite footballers. However, this lost sleep appeared to have a limited effect on perceptual recovery, which may be explained by a westbound flight and a relatively small change in time zones, in addition to the significant increase in sleep duration on the night of arrival after the long-haul flight.
Jonathon R. Lever, Alistair P. Murphy, Rob Duffield, and Hugh H.K. Fullagar
Purpose: To investigate the effects of combined sleep hygiene recommendations and mindfulness on actigraphy-based sleep parameters, perceptual well-being, anxiety, and match outcomes during high-performance junior tennis tournaments. Methods: In a randomized crossover design, 17 high-performance junior tennis players completed the baseline, control, and intervention (INT) conditions across 3 separate weeks. The baseline consisted of unassisted, habitual sleep during a regular training week, and the control was unassisted sleep during a tournament week. The players attended a sleep education workshop and completed a nightly sleep hygiene protocol during a tournament week for the INT. Analysis was performed on the weekly means and on the night prior to the first match of the tournament (T-1). Results: Significant differences were observed for increased time in bed, total sleep time, and an earlier bedtime (P < .05) across the INT week. These parameters also significantly improved on T-1 of the INT. A moderate effect size (P > .05, d > 1.00) was evident for decreased worry on T-1 of the INT. Small effect sizes were also evident for improved mood, cognitive anxiety, and sleep rating across the INT week. The match performance outcomes remained unchanged (P > .05). Conclusions: Sleep hygiene INTs increase the sleep duration of high-performance junior tennis players in tournament settings, including the night prior to the tournament’s first match. The effects on perceptual well-being and anxiety are unclear, although small trends suggest improved mood, despite no effect on generic match performance outcomes.
Hugh H.K. Fullagar, Rob Duffield, Sabrina Skorski, Aaron J. Coutts, Ross Julian, and Tim Meyer
While the effects of sleep loss on performance have previously been reviewed, the effects of disturbed sleep on recovery after exercise are less reported. Specifically, the interaction between sleep and physiological and psychological recovery in team-sport athletes is not well understood. Accordingly, the aim of the current review was to examine the current evidence on the potential role sleep may play in postexercise recovery, with a tailored focus on professional team-sport athletes. Recent studies show that team-sport athletes are at high risk of poor sleep during and after competition. Although limited published data are available, these athletes also appear particularly susceptible to reductions in both sleep quality and sleep duration after night competition and periods of heavy training. However, studies examining the relationship between sleep and recovery in such situations are lacking. Indeed, further observational sleep studies in team-sport athletes are required to confirm these concerns. Naps, sleep extension, and sleep-hygiene practices appear advantageous to performance; however, future proof-of-concept studies are now required to determine the efficacy of these interventions on postexercise recovery. Moreover, more research is required to understand how sleep interacts with numerous recovery responses in team-sport environments. This is pertinent given the regularity with which these teams encounter challenging scenarios during the course of a season. Therefore, this review examines the factors that compromise sleep during a season and after competition and discusses strategies that may help improve sleep in team-sport athletes.
Edgar Schwarz, Liam D. Harper, Rob Duffield, Robert McCunn, Andrew Govus, Sabrina Skorski, and Hugh H.K. Fullagar
Purpose: To examine practitioners’, coaches’, and athletes’ perceptions of evidence-based practice (EBP) in professional sport in Australia. Methods: One hundred thirty-eight participants (practitioners n = 67, coaches n = 39, and athletes n = 32) in various professional sports in Australia each completed a group-specific online questionnaire. Questions focused on perceptions of research, the contribution of participants’ own experience in implementing knowledge to practice, sources, and barriers for accessing and implementing EBP, preferred methods of feedback, and the required qualities of practitioners. Results: All practitioners reported using EBP, while most coaches and athletes believed that EBP contributes to individual performance and preparation (>85%). Practitioners’ preferred EBP information sources were “peer-reviewed journals” and “other practitioners within their sport,” while athlete sources were “practitioners within their sport” and “other athletes within their sport.” As primary barriers to accessing and implementing research, practitioners highlighted “time constraints,” “poor research translation,” and “nonapplicable research.” Practitioners ranked “informal conversation” as their most valued method of providing feedback; however, coaches prefer feedback from “scheduled meetings,” “online reports,” or “shared database.” Both athletes and coaches value “excellent knowledge of the sport,” “experience,” and “communication skills” in practitioners disseminating EBP. Conclusion: Practitioners, coaches, and athletes believe in the importance of EBP to their profession, although practitioners reported several barriers to accessing and implementing research as part of EBP. Athletes place a high value on experienced practitioners who have excellent knowledge of the sport and communication skills. Collectively, these findings can be used to further stakeholder understanding regarding EBP and the role of research to positively influence athlete health.
Jonathon R. Lever, Dina C. Janse van Rensburg, Audrey Jansen van Rensburg, Peter Fowler, and Hugh H.K. Fullagar
Purpose: To assess the impact of long-haul transmeridian travel on subjective sleep patterns and jet lag symptoms in youth athletes around an international tournament. Methods: An observational descriptive design was used. Subjective sleep diaries and perceived responses to jet lag were collected and analyzed for a national junior netball team competing in an international tournament. Sleep diaries and questionnaires were completed daily prior to and during travel, and throughout the tournament. Results were categorized into pretravel, travel, training, and match nights. Means were compared performing a paired Student t test with significance set at P < .05. Data are presented as mean (SD) and median (minimum, maximum). Results: Athletes reported significantly greater time in bed on match days compared with training (P < .001) and travel (P = .002) days, and on pretravel days compared with travel (P < .001) and training (P = .028) days. Sleep ratings were significantly better on pretravel days compared with match (P = .013) days. Perceived jet lag was worse on match (P = .043) days compared with pretravel days. Significant differences were also observed between a number of conditions for meals, mood, bowel activity, and fatigue. Conclusion: Youth athletes experience significantly less opportunity for sleep during long-haul transmeridian travel and face disruptions to daily routines during travel which impact food intake. Young athletes also experience disturbed sleep prior to and during competition. These results highlight the need for practices to alleviate jet lag symptoms and improve the sleep of young athletes traveling for tournaments in an effort to optimize recovery and performance.
Jonathon J.S. Weakley, Dale B. Read, Hugh H.K. Fullagar, Carlos Ramirez-Lopez, Ben Jones, Cloe Cummins, and John A. Sampson
Purpose: To investigate whether providing global positioning system feedback to players between bouts of small-sided games (SSGs) can alter locomotor, physiological, and perceptual responses. Methods: Using a reverse counterbalanced design, 20 male university rugby players received either feedback or no feedback during “off-side” touch rugby SSGs. Eight 5v5, 6 × 4-minute SSGs were played over 4 d. Teams were assigned to a feedback or no-feedback condition (control) each day, with feedback provided during the 2-min between-bouts rest interval. Locomotor, heart rate, and differential rating of perceived exertion of breathlessness and leg-muscle exertion were measured and analyzed using a linear mixed model. Outcomes were reported using effect sizes (ES) and 90% confidence intervals (CI), and then interpreted via magnitude-based decisions. Results: Very likely trivial to unclear differences at all time points were observed in heart rate and differential rating of perceived exertion measures. Possibly to very likely trivial effects were observed between conditions, including total distance (ES = 0.15; 90 CI, −0.03 to 0.34), high-speed distance (ES = −0.07; 90 CI, −0.27 to 0.13), and maximal sprint speed (ES = 0.11; 90% CI, −0.11 to 0.34). All within-bout comparisons showed very likely to unclear differences, apart from possible increases in low-speed distance in bout 2 (ES = 0.23; 90% CI, 0.01 to 0.46) and maximal sprint speed in bout 4 (ES = 0.21; 90% CI, −0.04 to 0.45). Conclusions: In this study, verbal feedback did not alter locomotor, physiological, or perceptual responses in rugby players during SSGs. This may be due to contextual factors (eg, opposition) or the type (ie, distance) or low frequency of feedback provided.