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Johann C. Bilsborough, Thomas Kempton, Kate Greenway, Justin Cordy and Aaron J. Coutts


To compare development and variations in body composition of early-, mid-, and late-career professional Australian Football (AF) players over 3 successive seasons.


Regional and total-body composition (body mass [BM], fat mass [FM], fat-free soft-tissue mass [FFSTM], and bone mineral content [BMC]) were assessed 4 times, at the same time of each season—start preseason (SP), end preseason (EP), midseason (MS), and end season (ES)—from 22 professional AF players using pencil-beam dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Nutritional intake for each player was evaluated concomitantly using 3-d food diaries. Players were classified according to their age at the beginning of the observational period as either early- (<21 y, n = 8), mid- (21 to 25 y, n = 9), or late- (>25 y, n = 5) career athletes.


Early-career players had lower FFSTM, BMC, and BM than mid- and late-career throughout. FM and %FM had greatest variability, particularly in the early-career players. FM reduced and FFSTM increased from SP to EP, while FM and FFSTM decreased from EP to MS. FM increased and FFSTM decreased from MS to ES, while FM and FFSTM increased during the off-season.


Early-career players may benefit from greater emphasis on specific nutrition and resistance-training strategies aimed at increasing FFSTM, while all players should balance training and diet toward the end of season to minimize increases in FM.

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Johann C. Bilsborough, Kate Greenway, Steuart Livingston, Justin Cordy and Aaron J. Coutts

The purpose of this study was to examine the seasonal changes in body composition, nutrition, and upper-body (UB) strength in professional Australian Football (AF) players. The prospective longitudinal study examined changes in anthropometry (body mass, fat-free soft-tissue mass [FFSTM], and fat mass) via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry 5 times during an AF season (start preseason, midpreseason, start season, midseason, end season) in 45 professional AF players. Dietary intakes and strength (bench press and bench pull) were also assessed at these time points. Players were categorized as experienced (>4 y experience, n = 23) or inexperienced (<4 y experience, n = 22). Fat mass decreased during the preseason but was stable through the in-season for both groups. %FFSTM was increased during the preseason and remained constant thereafter. UB strength increased during the preseason and was maintained during the in-season. Changes in UB FFSTM were related to changes in UB-strength performance (r = .37−.40). Total energy and carbohydrate intakes were similar between the experienced and inexperienced players during the season, but there was a greater ratio of dietary fat intake at the start-preseason point and an increased alcohol, reduced protein, and increased total energy intake at the end of the season. The inexperienced players consumed more fat at the start of season and less total protein during the season than the experienced players. Coaches should also be aware that it can take >1 y to develop the appropriate levels of FFSTM in young players and take a long-term view when developing the physical and performance abilities of inexperienced players.