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Marni J. Simpson, David G. Jenkins, and Vincent G. Kelly

Purpose: To examine potential differences in internal and external workload variables between playing positions and between training drills and games within an elite netball team during training and competition. Methods: Nine elite female netballers were monitored during 15 games and all training sessions over 28 weeks. Workload variables assessed were relative PlayerLoad (PL per minute), accelerations, decelerations, jumps, changes of direction, high-intensity events, medium-intensity events, low-intensity events, PL in a forward direction, PL in a sideways direction, PL in a vertical direction, and summated heart-rate zones using heart-rate monitors and inertial measurement units. Results: Conditioning and match play during training were the only drills that matched or exceeded game workloads. Workloads during small-sided games were lower than game workloads for all variables. In games, goalkeeper, goal attack, and goal shooter had a greater frequency of jumps compared with other positions. Midcourt positions had a greater frequency of low-intensity events in a game. Conclusions: Workloads during small-sided games were lower than game workloads across all external and internal variables; therefore, netball staff should modify these small-sided games if they wish them to develop game-based qualities. Specific game workload variables indicate that there are differences within some positional groups; coaches need to be aware that positional groupings may fail to account for differences in workload between individual playing positions.

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Brandon M. Wellington, Michael D. Leveritt, and Vincent G. Kelly

Context:

Repeat-high-intensity efforts (RHIEs) have recently been shown to occur at critical periods of rugby league matches.

Purpose:

To examine the effect that caffeine has on RHIE performance in rugby league players.

Methods:

Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design, 11 semiprofessional rugby league players (age 19.0 ± 0.5 y, body mass 87.4 ± 12.9 kg, height 178.9 ± 2.6 cm) completed 2 experimental trials that involved completing an RHIE test after either caffeine (300 mg caffeine) or placebo (vitamin H) ingestion. Each trial consisted of 3 sets of 20-m sprints interspersed with bouts of tackling. During the RHIE test, 20-m-sprint time, heart rate (HR), rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and blood lactate were measured.

Results:

Total time to complete the nine 20-m sprints during the caffeine condition was 1.0% faster (28.46 ± 1.4 s) than during the placebo condition (28.77 ± 1.7 s) (ES = 0.18, 90%CI –0.7 to 0.1 s). This resulted in a very likely chance of caffeine being of benefit to RHIE performance (99% likely to be beneficial). These improvements were more pronounced in the early stages of the test, with a 1.3%, 1.0%, and 0.9% improvement in sprint performance during sets 1, 2, and 3 respectively. There was no significant difference in RPE across the 3 sets (P = .47, 0.48, 1.00) or mean HR (P = .36), maximal HR (P = .74), or blood lactate (P = .50) between treatment conditions.

Conclusions:

Preexercise ingestion of 300 mg caffeine produced practically meaningful improvements in RHIE performance in rugby league players.

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Suzanna Russell, Angus G. Evans, David G. Jenkins, and Vincent G. Kelly

Purpose: To determine the efficacy of 20 minutes of external counterpulsation (ECP) on subsequent 1.2-km shuttle run test (1.2SRT) performance and perceived recovery following fatiguing high-intensity exercise. Methods: After familiarization, 13 recreationally active males (21.4 [1.9] y) participated in 2 experimental trials in a randomized crossover design. At 8:00 AM, participants completed a 1.2SRT, followed by an individualized high-intensity exercise bout and 20 minutes of ECP or supine passive rest (control). At 2:00 PM a second 1.2SRT was completed. Completion time for 1.2SRT (measured in seconds), heart rate, and Borg rating of perceived exertion were compared across conditions. Total quality of recovery and 100-mm visual analogue scale of perceived benefit of recovery were assessed at multiple time points. Results: A significantly smaller decline in PM 1.2SRT completion time compared with AM (baseline) was found for ECP compared with control (P = .008; moderate, very likely beneficial effect size of −0.77 [−1.53 to 0.05]). Total quality of recovery was significantly higher for ECP than control (P < .001), and perceived benefit of recovery was higher following ECP (P < .001, very large, most likely beneficial effect size of 2.08 [1.22 to 2.81]). Conclusions: Twenty minutes of ECP was found to be an effective recovery modality for within-day, between-bouts exercise, positively influencing subsequent 1.2SRT performance and enhancing perceptual recovery. ECP may be applied as a viable alternative to optimize and accelerate the recovery process, particularly in the event of congested training or competition demands.

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Suzanna Russell, Marni J. Simpson, Angus G. Evans, Tristan J. Coulter, and Vincent G. Kelly

Purpose: To investigate and explore the relationships between physiological and perceptual recovery and stress responses to elite netball tournament workloads. Methods: Nine elite female netballers were observed across a 3-day (T1–3), 4-match tournament. Participants provided salivary samples for cortisol and alpha-amylase analysis, completed the Short Recovery Stress Scale (SRSS), and reported session ratings of perceived exertion. Inertial measurement units and heart-rate monitors determined player load, changes of direction (COD), summated heart-rate zones, and jumps. Results: Analysis revealed 6 significant SRSS time effects: (1) decreased recovery markers of physical performance (P = .042), emotional balance (P = .034), and overall recovery (P = .001) and (2) increased perceptual stress markers of muscular stress (P = .001), negative emotional state (P = .026), and overall stress (P = .010). Salivary cortisol decreased over the tournament (T1–3) before progressively increasing posttournament with greater salivary samples for cortisol on T+2 compared with T3 (P = .014, ES = −1.29; −2.24 to −0.22]) and T+1 (P = .031, ES = −1.54; −2.51 to −0.42). SRSS overall recovery moderately negatively correlated with COD (r = −.41, P = .028) and session ratings of perceived exertion (r = −.40, P = .034). Cumulative workload did not relate to posttournament perceptual or salivary responses. Percentage change in salivary variables related (P < .05) to total player load, total COD, and overall recovery across specific cumulative time periods. Conclusions: During and after an elite netball tournament, athletes indicated increased perceptual stress and lack of recovery. The SRSS is a valuable tool for recovery–stress monitoring in elite tournament netball. It is recommended that practitioners monitor COD due to its negative influence on perceived overall recovery.

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Marni J. Simpson, David G. Jenkins, Aaron T. Scanlan, and Vincent G. Kelly

Purpose: To examine relationships between external- and internal-workload variables in an elite female netball team, with consideration of positional differences. Methods: Nine elite female netball athletes had their weekly workloads monitored across their preseason and competition phases of a season. Internal workload was determined using summated heart-rate (HR) zones and session ratings of perceived exertion (sRPE), whereas external workload was determined using inertial movement units and included absolute PlayerLoad (PL), relative PL (PL per minute), accelerations (ACCEL), decelerations (DECEL), jumps, changes of direction (COD), high-intensity events, medium-intensity events, low-intensity events, PL in the forward direction, PL in the sideways direction, and PL in the vertical direction. Relationships between external- and internal-workload variables in the team and relative to playing position were examined. Results: Across the team, the strongest external workloads that correlated with summated HR zones were PL (r = .65), COD (r = .64), ACCEL (r = .61), and DECEL (r = .61). The strongest external workloads that correlated with sRPE were COD (r = .79), followed by jumps (r = .76), ACCEL (r = .75), and DECEL (r = .75). For all positions, except-goal shooter, the strongest correlation was between PL and sRPE (r = .88–.94). In the goal-shooter position, the strongest correlation was between summated HR zones and DECEL (r = .89). Conclusions: The inertial movement unit-derived external-workload variables are strongly related to common internal-workload variables. In particular, COD and sRPE appear to provide a good monitoring combination of external and internal training loads for elite netball players.

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Vincent G. Kelly, Liam S. Oliver, Joanna Bowtell, and David G. Jenkins

Professional rugby league (RL) football is a contact sport involving repeated collisions and high-intensity efforts; both training and competition involve high energy expenditure. The present review summarizes and critiques the available literature relating the physiological demands of RL to nutritional requirements and considers potential ergogenic supplements that could improve players’ physical capacity, health, and recovery during the preparatory and competition phases of a season. Although there may not be enough data to provide RL-specific recommendations, the available data suggest that players may require approximately 6–8 g·kg−1·day−1 carbohydrate, 1.6–2.6 g·kg−1·day−1 protein, and 0.7–2.2 g·kg−1·day−1 fat, provided that the latter also falls within 20–35% of total energy intake. Competition nutrition should maximize glycogen availability by consuming 1–4 g/kg carbohydrate (∼80–320 g) plus 0.25 g/kg (∼20–30 g) protein, 1–4 hr preexercise for 80–120 kg players. Carbohydrate intakes of approximately 80–180 g (1.0–1.5 g/kg) plus 20–67 g protein (0.25–0.55 g/kg) 0–2 hr postexercise will optimize glycogen resynthesis and muscle protein synthesis. Supplements that potentially improve performance, recovery, and adaptation include low to moderate dosages of caffeine (3–6 mg/kg) and ∼300 mg polyphenols consumed ∼1 hr preexercise, creatine monohydrate “loading” (0.3 g·kg−1·day−1) and/or maintenance (3–5 g/day), and beta-alanine (65–80 mg·kg−1·day−1). Future research should quantify energy expenditures in young, professional male RL players before constructing recommendations.

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Marni J. Simpson, David G. Jenkins, Mark Connick, and Vincent G. Kelly

Purpose: This study examined the relationships between training workloads, game workloads, and match performance in an elite netball team. Methods: Ten elite female netball athletes were monitored over a complete season. Training and game external workloads were determined through inertial movement units and expressed as absolute PlayerLoad (PL) and change of direction (COD). Monthly workload and training efficiency index were also calculated, which used internal workloads (session rating of perceived exertion and summated heart-rate zones). Game performance was assessed through a performance analysis statistic algorithm called NetPoints. To account for the influence of team game workloads on each other, the average workload for midcourt positions (avgMC) was calculated for each game. Data for each athlete were transformed into z scores, and linear mixed modeling was used to build models to examine the relationships between workloads and game performance. Results: Monthly PL, training efficiency index PL, and avgMC PL were statistically significant (P < .05) and positively related to game PL (z = 0.20–0.35, P < .001–.02). For game COD, statistically significant positive relationships were found between monthly COD (z = 0.29 [0.11], P = .01) and avgMC COD (z = 0.21 [0.09], P = .03). The models for NetPoints found significant negative relationships with monthly PL (z = 0.46 [0.12], P < .001) and COD (z = −0.36 [0.11], P = .01). Conclusions: Higher monthly workloads are related to higher game workload; however, they are also related to decreases in match performance. Therefore, netball practitioners should consider that increases to training workload in a 4-week period prior to a game can influence game workloads and performance.

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Lachlan P. James, Emma M. Beckman, Vincent G. Kelly, and G. Gregory Haff

Purpose:

To determine whether the maximal strength, impulse, and power characteristics of competitive mixed-martial-arts (MMA) athletes differ according to competition level.

Methods:

Twenty-nine male semiprofessional and amateur MMA competitors were stratified into either higher-level (HL) or lower-level (LL) performers on the basis of competition grade and success. The 1-repetition-maximum (1RM) squat was used to assess lower-body dynamic strength, and a spectrum of impulse, power, force, and velocity variables were evaluated during an incremental-load jump squat. In addition, participants performed an isometric midthigh pull (IMTP) and 1RM bench press to determine whole-body isometric force and upper-body dynamic strength capabilities, respectively. All force and power variables were expressed relative to body mass (BM).

Results:

The HL competitors produced significantly superior values across a multitude of measures. These included 1RM squat strength (1.84 ± 0.23 vs 1.56 ± 0.24 kg BM; P = .003), in addition to performance in the incremental-load jump squat that revealed greater peak power (P = .005–.002), force (P = .002–.004), and velocity (P = .002–.03) at each load. Higher measures of impulse (P = .01–.04) were noted in a number of conditions. Average power (P = .002–.02) and velocity (P = .01–.04) at all loads in addition to a series of rate-dependent measures were also superior in the HL group (P = .005–.02). The HL competitors’ 1RM bench-press values approached significantly greater levels (P = .056) than the LL group’s, but IMTP performance did not differ between groups.

Conclusions:

Maximal lower-body neuromuscular capabilities are key attributes distinguishing HL from LL MMA competitors. This information can be used to inform evidenced-based training and performance-monitoring practices.

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Llion A. Roberts, Johnpaul Caia, Lachlan P. James, Tannath J. Scott, and Vincent G. Kelly

Purpose: External counterpulsation (ECP) has previously been used to treat cardiac patients via compression of the lower extremities during diastole to increase venous return and coronary perfusion. However, the effects of ECP on exercise performance and markers of recovery in elite athletes are largely unknown. Methods: On 2 separate occasions, 48 h apart, 7 elite National Rugby League players performed an identical 60-min field-based conditioning session followed by a 30-min period of either regular ECP treatment or placebo. Power measures during repeated cycle bouts and countermovement jump height and contraction time derivatives were measured at rest and 5 h postexercise. Saliva samples and venous blood samples were taken at rest, postexercise, and 5 h postexercise to assess stress, inflammation, and muscle damage. Results: After ECP treatment, cycling peak power output (P = .028; 11%) and accumulated peak power (P = .027; 14%) increased compared with the placebo condition. Postexercise plasma interleukin 1 receptor antagonist only increased after ECP (P = .024; 84%), and concentrations of plasma interleukin 1 receptor antagonist tended to be higher (P = .093; 76%) 5 h postexercise. Furthermore, testosterone-to-cortisol ratio was increased above baseline and placebo 5 h postexercise (P = .017–.029; 24–77%). The ratio of postexercise salivary α-amylase to immunoglobulin A decreased after treatment (P = .013; 50%) compared with the placebo control. Conclusions: Exercise performance and hormonal indicators of stress were improved and inflammation markers were reduced following acute ECP.

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Johnpaul Caia, Shona L. Halson, Patrick M. Holmberg, and Vincent G. Kelly

Purpose: To examine the sleep of rugby league athletes the night before and following an evening match and to investigate the association between caffeine intake and sleep on the night of competition. Methods: On the night prior to, night of, and night after a professional rugby league match, 15 athletes had their sleep monitored using wrist activity monitors. Additionally, saliva samples were collected 60 minutes before and 30 minutes after the competition to assess salivary caffeine concentration. Differences in sleep across the 3 nights were examined using linear mixed models, and changes were assessed using effect size (ES). Pearson correlation (r) assessed the relationship between salivary caffeine levels and sleep indices. Results: On the night of competition, athletes went to bed later than the night before (P = .00002, ES = 1.84) and night after (P = .0003, ES = 1.49) competition. Consequently, their sleep duration was reduced on the night of competition compared with the previous night (P < .0000003, ES = 2.36) and night after competition (P = .001, ES = 1.53). Postcompetition salivary caffeine concentration was substantially elevated in athletes when compared with precompetition measures (P < .00000001, ES = 4.44), and moderate, nonsignificant correlations were observed between changes in salivary caffeine concentration and delayed bedtime (r = .48, P = .07), increased sleep latency (r = .45, P = .09), decreased sleep duration (r = −.30, P = .28), and reduced sleep efficiency (r = −.34, P = .22). Conclusions: These results demonstrate that evening competition results in sleep disturbance in rugby league athletes, and caffeine supplementation prior to and during competition leads to substantial increases in postcompetition salivary caffeine concentration.