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Joanne Hausler, Mark Halaki and Rhonda Orr

Purpose:

To investigate activity profiles of Australian rugby league players during match play by competition, position, and match outcome in the New South Wales (NSW) second-tier competitions.

Methods:

Eighteen NSW Cup (NSWC) and 22 National Youth Competition (NYC) players, participating in this prospective cohort study, were categorized into 3 positional groups: forwards, adjustables, and outside backs. Global positioning system devices were used to examine activity profiles (distance and relative distance covered in walking, jogging, moderate, high, very high, and sprinting speed zones and quantification of high-speed movement) during match play in 21 NSWC and 22 NYC matches (N = 339 files).

Results:

NSWC players performed more sprints (36.5 ± 9.3 vs 28.4 ± 9.2) and greater relative distance in moderate speed zones (18.4 ± 3.2 vs 15.8 ± 3.1 m/min) than NYC. NSWC outside backs covered greater relative distance in jogging (29.4 ± 2.9 vs 24.8 ± 2.7 m/min) and moderate speed zones (17.0 ± 2.6 vs 12.8 ± 2.8 m/min) than their NYC counterparts. Adjustables performed more sprints (39.4 ± 10.1 vs 27.0 ± 9.2), high-intensity accelerations (3.7 ± 1.4 vs 1.9 ± 1.4), and relative distance (84.8 ± 4.3 vs 88.6 ± 4.8 m/min) than forwards and greater relative distance (81.5 ± 3.8 m/min) and sprints (31.0 ± 8.0) than outside backs. Adjustables recorded greater relative distance (19.8 m/min) in moderate speed zones than forwards (16.7 ± 3.1 m/min) and outside backs (14.9 ± 2.7 m/min). Adjustables covered ~685 m more than outside backs during a win.

Conclusions:

This is the first study to document the activity profiles of the NSW second-tier rugby league competition. The findings underscore the elevated match demands of adjustables and indicate higher intensity of play in NSWC than NYC that may more closely resemble the demands of National Rugby League match play.

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Cloe Cummins, Blake McLean, Mark Halaki and Rhonda Orr

Purpose:

To quantify the external training loads of positional groups in preseason training drills.

Methods:

Thirty-three elite rugby league players were categorized into 1 of 4 positional groups: outside backs (n = 9), adjustables (n = 9), wide-running forwards (n = 9), and hit-up forwards (n = 6). Data for 8 preseason weeks were collected using microtechnology devices. Training drills were classified based on drill focus: speed and agility, conditioning, and generic and positional skills.

Results:

Total, high-speed, and very-high-speed distance decreased across the preseason in speed and agility (moderate, small, and small, respectively), conditioning (large, large, and small) and generic skills (large, large, and large). The duration of speed and generic skills also decreased (77% and 48%, respectively). This was matched by a concomitant increase in total distance (small), high-speed running (small), very-high-speed running (moderate), and 2-dimensional (2D) BodyLoad (small) demands in positional skills. In positional skills, hit-up forwards (1240 ± 386 m) completed less very-high-speed running than outside backs (2570 ± 1331 m) and adjustables (2121 ± 1163 m). Hit-up forwards (674 ± 253 AU) experienced greater 2D BodyLoad demands than outside backs (432 ± 230 AU, P = .034). In positional drills, hit-up forwards experienced greater relative 2D BodyLoad demands than outside backs (P = .015). Conversely, outside backs experienced greater relative high- (P = .007) and very-high-speed-running (P < .001) demands than hit-up forwards.

Conclusion:

Significant differences were observed in training loads between positional groups during positional skills but not in speed and agility, conditioning, and generic skills. This work also highlights the importance of different external-load parameters to adequately quantify workload across different positional groups.

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Roger Bourne, Mark Halaki, Benedicte Vanwanseele and Jillian Clarke

This study investigates the hypothesis that shallow edge lifting force in high-level rock climbers is more strongly related to fingertip soft tissue anatomy than to absolute strength or strength to body mass ratio. Fifteen experienced climbers performed repeated maximal single hand lifting exercises on rectangular sandstone edges of depth 2.8, 4.3, 5.8, 7.3, and 12.5 mm while standing on a force measurement platform. Fingertip soft tissue dimensions were assessed by ultrasound imaging. Shallow edge (2.8 and 4.3 mm) lifting force, in newtons or body mass normalized, was uncorrelated with deep edge (12.5 mm) lifting force (r < .1). There was a positive correlation (r = .65, p < .05) between lifting force in newtons at 2.8 mm edge depth and tip of bone to tip of finger pulp measurement (r < .37 at other edge depths). The results confirm the common perception that maximum lifting force on a deep edge (“strength”) does not predict maximum force production on very shallow edges. It is suggested that increased fingertip pulp dimension or plasticity may enable increased deformation of the fingertip, increasing the skin to rock contact area on very shallow edges, and thus increase the limit of force production. The study also confirmed previous assumptions of left/right force symmetry in climbers.

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Shane Ball, Mark Halaki, Tristan Sharp and Rhonda Orr

Context: Rugby union is a physically demanding collision sport with high injury rates. There is a common perception that higher training loads result in greater injury risk in field-based sports. Objectives: To determine injury, anthropometric, and physical-performance characteristics in junior rugby union players and investigate the interaction between training load and injury across a competitive season. Design: Prospective cohort study. Methods: Fifty-one players (age 19.2 ± 0.7 y) from an under-20 university rugby union team (forwards, n = 27; backs, n = 24) participated in a study conducted over a competition season. Training load, injury characteristics, anthropometry, physiological performance, and match time-loss injury incidence were observed. Results: Backs had significantly lower body mass (ES [95% CI] = 1.6 [0.9, 2.2]), skinfold thickness (ES = 1.1 [0.5, 1.7]), strength (squat ES = 0.6 [0.0, 1.2], deadlift ES = 0.6 [0.0, 1.1], bench press ES = 0.9 [0.4, 1.5]), lower-body power (ES = 0.4 [−0.2, 1.0]), and higher maximal aerobic capacity (ES = −0.3 [−0.8, 0.3]) than forwards. Match injury incidence was 107.3 injuries/1000 player hours (forwards 91.4/1000, backs 125.5/1000) during preseason and 110.7 injuries/1000 player hours (forwards 124.1/1000, backs 95.2/1000) during in-season. Forwards showed higher incidence of joint and ligament (P = .049) and upper-limb (P = .011) injuries than backs. No significant relationship between overall training load and match injury incidence was found. However, lower match injury incidence was associated with higher weekly training volume in backs (P = .007). Conclusions: Positional differences in body composition, performance, injury characteristics, and match injury patterns were identified in junior university rugby union players, indicating the need for position-specific training programs to reduce risk of injury.