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Samuel Ryan, Aaron J. Coutts, Joel Hocking and Thomas Kempton

Purpose:

To examine the influence of a range of individual player characteristics and match-related factors on activity profiles during professional Australian football matches.

Methods:

Global positioning system (GPS) profiles were collected from 34 professional Australian football players from the same club over 15 competition matches. GPS data were classified into relative total and high-speed running (HSR; >20 km/h) distances. Individual player aerobic fitness was determined from a 2-km time trial conducted during the preseason. Each match was classified according to match location, season phase, recovery length, opposition strength, and match outcome. The total number of stoppages during the match was obtained from a commercial statistics provider. A linear mixed model was constructed to examine the influence of player characteristics and match-related factors on both relative total and HSR outputs.

Results:

Player aerobic fitness had a large effect on relative total and HSR distances. Away matches and matches lost produced only small reductions in relative HSR distances, while the number of rotations also had a small positive effect. Matches won, more player rotations, and playing against strong opposition all resulted in small to moderate increases in relative total distance, while early season phase, increased number of stoppages, and away matches resulted in small to moderate reductions in relative total distance.

Conclusions:

There is a likely interplay of factors that influence running performance during Australian football matches. The results highlight the need to consider a variety of contextual factors when interpreting physical output from matches.

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Sam Coad, Bon Gray and Christopher McLellan

Purpose:

To assess match-to-match variations in salivary immunoglobulin A concentration ([s-IgA]) measured at 36 h postmatch throughout an Australian Football League (AFL) premiership season and to assess the trends between 36-h-postmatch [s-IgA] and match-play exercise workloads throughout the same season.

Methods:

Eighteen elite male AFL athletes (24 ± 4.2 y, 187.0 ± 7.1 cm, 87.0 ± 7.6 kg) were monitored on a weekly basis to determine total match-play exercise workloads and 36-h-postmatch [s-IgA] throughout 16 consecutive matches in an AFL premiership season. Global positioning systems (GPS) with integrated triaxial accelerometers were used to measure exercise workloads (PlayerLoad) during each AFL match. A linear mixed-model analyses was conducted for time-dependent changes in [s-IgA] and player load.

Results:

A significant main effect was found for longitudinal postmatch [s-IgA] data (F 16,240 = 3.78, P < .01) and PlayerLoad data (F 16,66 = 1.98, P = .03). For all matches after and including match 7, a substantial suppression trend in [s-IgA] 36-h-postmatch values was found compared with preseason baseline [s-IgA].

Conclusion:

The current study provides novel data regarding longitudinal trends in 36-h-postmatch [s-IgA] for AFL athletes. Results demonstrate that weekly in-season AFL match-play exercise workloads may result in delayed mucosal immunological recovery beyond 36 h postmatch. The inclusion of individual athlete-monitoring strategies of [s-IgA] may be advantageous in the detection of compromised postmatch mucosal immunological function for AFL athletes.

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Ryu Nagahara, Jean-Benoit Morin and Masaaki Koido

Purpose:

To assess soccer-specific impairment of mechanical properties in accelerated sprinting and its relation with activity profiles during an actual match.

Methods:

Thirteen male field players completed 4 sprint measurements, wherein running speed was obtained using a laser distance-measurement system, before and after the 2 halves of 2 soccer matches. Macroscopic mechanical properties (theoretical maximal horizontal force [F0], maximal horizontal sprinting power [Pmax], and theoretical maximal sprinting velocity [V0]) during the 35-m sprint acceleration were calculated from speed–time data. Players’ activity profiles during the matches were collected using global positioning system units.

Results:

After the match, although F0 and Pmax did not significantly change, V0 was reduced (P = .038), and the magnitude of this reduction correlated with distance (positive) and number (negative) of high-speed running, number of running (negative), and other low-intensity activity distance (negative) during the match. Moreover, Pmax decreased immediately before the second half (P = .014).

Conclusions:

The results suggest that soccer-specific fatigue probably impairs players’ maximal velocity capabilities more than their maximal horizontal force-production abilities at initial acceleration. Furthermore, long-distance running, especially at high speed, during the match may induce relatively large impairment of maximal velocity capabilities. In addition, the capability of producing maximal horizontal power during sprinting is presumably impaired during halftime of a soccer match with passive recovery. These findings could be useful for players and coaches aiming to train effectively to maintain sprinting performance throughout a soccer match when planning a training program.

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Jace A. Delaney, Heidi R. Thornton, Grant M. Duthie and Ben J. Dascombe

Background:

Rugby league coaches adopt replacement strategies for their interchange players to maximize running intensity; however, it is important to understand the factors that may influence match performance.

Purpose:

To assess the independent factors affecting running intensity sustained by interchange players during professional rugby league.

Methods:

Global positioning system (GPS) data were collected from all interchanged players (starters and nonstarters) in a professional rugby league squad across 24 matches of a National Rugby League season. A multilevel mixed-model approach was employed to establish the effect of various technical (attacking and defensive involvements), temporal (bout duration, time in possession, etc), and situational (season phase, recovery cycle, etc) factors on the relative distance covered and average metabolic power (Pmet) during competition. Significant effects were standardized using correlation coefficients, and the likelihood of the effect was described using magnitude-based inferences.

Results:

Superior intermittent running ability resulted in very likely large increases in both relative distance and Pmet. As the length of a bout increased, both measures of running intensity exhibited a small decrease. There were at least likely small increases in running intensity for matches played after short recovery cycles and against strong opposition. During a bout, the number of collision-based involvements increased running intensity, whereas time in possession and ball time out of play decreased demands.

Conclusions:

These data demonstrate a complex interaction of individual- and match-based factors that require consideration when developing interchange strategies, and the manipulation of training loads during shorter recovery periods and against stronger opponents may be beneficial.

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Dean J. McNamara, Tim J. Gabbett, Geraldine Naughton, Patrick Farhart and Paul Chapman

Purpose:

This study investigated key fatigue and workload variables of cricket fast bowlers and nonfast bowlers during a 7-wk physical-preparation period and 10-d intensified competition period.

Methods:

Twenty-six elite junior cricketers (mean ± SD age 17.7 ± 1.1 y) were classified as fast bowlers (n = 9) or nonfast bowlers (n = 17). Individual workloads were measured via global positioning system technology, and neuromuscular function (countermovement jump [relative power and flight time]), endocrine (salivary testosterone and cortisol concentrations), and perceptual well-being (soreness, mood, stress, sleep quality, and fatigue) markers were recorded.

Results:

Fast bowlers performed greater competition total distance (median [interquartile range] 7049 [3962] m vs 5062 [3694] m), including greater distances at low and high speeds, and more accelerations (40 [32] vs 19 [21]) and had a higher player load (912 [481] arbitrary units vs 697 [424] arbitrary units) than nonfast bowlers. Cortisol concentrations were higher in the physical-preparation (mean ± 90% confidence intervals, % likelihood; d = –0.88 ± 0.39, 100%) and competition phases (d = –0.39 ± 0.30, 85%), and testosterone concentrations, lower (d = 0.56 ± 0.29, 98%), in the competition phase in fast bowlers. Perceptual well-being was poorer in nonfast bowlers during competition only (d = 0.36 ± 0.22, 88%). Differences in neuromuscular function between groups were unclear during physical preparation and competition.

Conclusions:

These findings demonstrate differences in the physical demands of cricket fast bowlers and nonfast bowlers and suggest that these external workloads differentially affect the neuromuscular, endocrine, and perceptual fatigue responses of these players.

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Rich D. Johnston, Tim J. Gabbett and David G. Jenkins

Purpose:

To assess the influence of playing standard and physical fitness on pacing strategies during a junior team-sport tournament.

Methods:

A between-groups, repeated-measures design was used. Twenty-eight junior team-sport players (age 16.6 ± 0.5 y, body mass 79.9 ± 12.0 kg) from a high-standard and low-standard team participated in a junior rugby league tournament, competing in 5 games over 4 d (4 × 40-min and 1 × 50-min game). Players wore global positioning system (GPS) microtechnology during each game to provide information on match activity profiles. The Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (level 1) was used to assess physical fitness before the competition.

Results:

High-standard players had an initially higher pacing strategy than the low-standard players, covering greater distances at high (ES = 1.32) and moderate speed (ES = 1.41) in game 1 and moderate speed (ES = 1.55) in game 2. However, low-standard players increased their playing intensity across the competition (ES = 0.57–2.04). High-standard/high-fitness players maintained a similar playing intensity, whereas high-standard/low-fitness players reduced their playing intensities across the competition.

Conclusions:

Well-developed physical fitness allows for a higher-intensity pacing strategy that can be maintained throughout a tournament. High-standard/low-fitness players reduce playing intensity, most likely due to increased levels of fatigue as the competition progresses. Low-standard players adopt a pacing strategy that allows them to conserve energy to produce an “end spurt” in the latter games. Maximizing endurance fitness across an entire playing group will maximize playing intensity and minimize performance reductions during the latter stages of a tournament.

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Georgia M. Black and Tim J. Gabbett

Purpose:

No study has investigated the frequency and nature of repeated high-intensity-effort (RHIE) bouts across elite and semielite rugby league competitions. This study examined RHIE activity in rugby league match play across playing standards.

Participants:

36 elite and 64 semielite rugby league players.

Methods:

Global positioning system analysis was completed during 17 elite and 14 semielite matches.

Results:

The most commonly occurring RHIE bouts involved 2 efforts (2-RHIE) for both elite and semielite players. Only small differences were found in 2-RHIE activity between elite and semielite match play (effect size [ES] ≥0.31 ± 0.15, ≥88%, likely). RHIE bouts were more likely to involve contact as the number of efforts in a bout increased (ES ≥0.40 ± 0.15, 100%, almost certainly). Semielite players performed a greater proportion of 2-contact-effort RHIE bouts than their elite counterparts (68.2% vs 60.6%, ES 0.33 ± 0.15, 92%, likely), while elite players performed a greater proportion of 3-effort bouts (26.9% vs 21.1%, ES 0.31 ± 0.15, 88%, likely). Elite players also had a shorter recovery (1.00−3.99 vs ≥4.00 min) between RHIE bouts (ES ≥1.60 ± 0.71, ≥94%, likely).

Conclusion:

These findings highlight the RHIE demands of elite and semielite rugby league match play. Elite players are more likely to perform RHIE bouts consisting of 3 efforts and to have a shorter recovery time between bouts. Exposing players to these RHIE demands in training is likely to improve their ability to tolerate the most demanding passages of match play.

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Rich D. Johnston, Tim J. Gabbett and David G. Jenkins

Purpose:

To determine the influence the number of contact efforts during a single bout has on running intensity during game-based activities and assess relationships between physical qualities and distances covered in each game.

Methods:

Eighteen semiprofessional rugby league players (age 23.6 ± 2.8 y) competed in 3 off-side small-sided games (2 × 10-min halves) with a contact bout performed every 2 min. The rules of each game were identical except for the number of contact efforts performed in each bout. Players performed 1, 2, or 3 × 5-s wrestles in the single-, double-, and triple-contact game, respectively. The movement demands (including distance covered and intensity of exercise) in each game were monitored using global positioning system units. Bench-press and back-squat 1-repetition maximum and the 30−15 Intermittent Fitness Test (30−15IFT) assessed muscle strength and high-intensity-running ability, respectively.

Results:

There was little change in distance covered during the single-contact game (ES = −0.16 to −0.61), whereas there were larger reductions in the double- (ES = −0.52 to −0.81) and triple-contact (ES = −0.50 to −1.15) games. Significant relationships (P < .05) were observed between 30–15IFT and high-speed running during the single- (r = .72) and double- (r = .75), but not triple-contact (r = .20) game.

Conclusions:

There is little change in running intensity when only single contacts are performed each bout; however, when multiple contacts are performed, greater reductions in running intensity result. In addition, high-intensity-running ability is only associated with running performance when contact demands are low.

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Laura A. Garvican, Kristal Hammond, Matthew C. Varley, Christopher J. Gore, Francois Billaut and Robert J. Aughey

Purpose:

This study investigated the decrement in running performance of elite soccer players competing at low altitude and time course for abatement of these decrements.

Methods:

Twenty elite youth soccer players had their activity profile, in a sea-level (SL) and 2 altitude (Alt, 1600 m, d 4, and d 6) matches, measured with a global positioning system. Measures expressed in meters per minute of match time were total distance, low- and high-velocity running (LoVR, 0.01–4.16 m/s; HiVR, 4.17–10.0 m/s), and frequency of maximal accelerations (>2.78 m/s2). The peak and subsequent stanza for each measure were identified and a transient fatigue index calculated. Mean heart rate (HR) during the final minute of a submaximal running task (5 min, 11 km/h) was recorded at SL and for 10 d at Alt. Differences were determined between SL and Alt using percentage change and effect-size (ES) statistic with 90% confidence intervals.

Results:

Mean HR almost certainly increased on d 1 (5.4%, ES 1.01 ± 0.35) and remained probably elevated on both d 2 (ES 0.42 ± 0.31) and d3 (ES 0.30 ± 0.25), returning to baseline at d 5. Total distance was almost certainly lower than SL (ES –0.76 ± 0.37) at d 4 and remained probably reduced on d 6 (ES –0.42 ± 0.36). HiVR probably decreased at d 4 vs SL (–0.47 ± 0.59), with no clear effect of altitude at d 6 (–0.08 ± 0.41). Transient fatigue in matches was evident at SL and Alt, with a possibly greater decrement at Alt.

Conclusion:

Despite some physiological adaptation, match running performance of youth soccer players is compromised for at least 6 d at low altitude.

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Mitchell Mooney, Stuart Cormack, Brendan O’Brien and Aaron J Coutts

Purpose:

The purpose of this study was to determine if Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery level 2 (Yo-Yo IR2) and the number of interchange rotations affected the match activity profile of elite Australian footballers.

Method:

Fifteen elite Australian footballers completed the Yo-Yo IR2 before the beginning of the season and played across 22 matches in which match activity profiles were measured via microtechnology devices containing a global positioning system (GPS) and accelerometer. An interchange rotation was counted when a player left the field and was replaced with another player. Yo-Yo IR2 results were further split into high and low groups.

Results:

Players match speed decreased from 1st to 4th quarter, while average-speed (m/min: P = .05) and low-speed activity (LSA, <15 km/h) per minute (LSA m/min; P = .06) significantly decreased in the 2nd half. Yo-Yo IR2 influenced the amount of m/min, high-speed running (HSR, >15 km/h) per minute (HSR m/min) and accelerometer load/min throughout the entire match. The number of interchanges significantly influenced the HSR m/min and m/min throughout the match except in the 2nd quarter. Furthermore, the low Yo-Yo IR2 group had significantly less LSA m/min in the 4th quarter than the high Yo-Yo IR2 group (92.2 vs 96.7 m/min, P = .06).

Conclusions:

Both the Yo-Yo IR2 and number of interchanges contribute to m/min and HSR m/min produced by elite Australian footballers, affecting their match activity. However, while it appears that improved Yo-Yo IR2 performance prevents reductions in LSA m/min during a match, higher-speed activities (HSR m/min) and overall physical activity (m/min and load/min) are still reduced in the 4th quarter compared with the 1st quarter.