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Luis Suarez-Arrones, Javier Núñez, Diego Munguía-Izquierdo, Javier Portillo and Alberto Mendez-Villanueva

Purpose:

To examine the effects of several matches per day on running performance and cardiovascular stress in referees during a national Rugby Sevens championship.

Methods:

Seven referees, who refereed 3 matches/day, were monitored by GPS during 21 matches.

Results:

Referees’ movement patterns were relatively stable from the 1st to the 2nd match, although a substantial decrease was observed in the 2nd match for maximal and average sprint distance. A substantial decrease in the number of sprints, maximal speed, walking, distance covered at medium intensity, total and >14 km/h distance covered per minute was observed in the 3rd match in comparison with the 2nd. Compared with the 1st match, in the 3rd game referees showed a substantial decrease in maximal and average sprint distance, total walking at medium intensity, distance covered >14 km/h, and high-intensity running distance. Referees exhibited a substantial decrease in average heart rate (HR), percentage of time at >70%HRmax, and percentage of time at >90%HRmax in the 2nd match compared with the 1st. Referees’ HR responses were relatively stable from the 2nd to the 3rd match except for the HR zones of 71–80%HRmax and 81–90%HRmax and performance-efficiency index (Effindex). Substantial differences were observed in the 3rd match compared with the 1st in average HR, 81–90%HRmax, >90%HRmax, and Effindex.

Conclusion:

This study provides evidence of reduced overall running performance and pronounced reduction in high-intensity running performance during the last match in Rugby Sevens referees refereeing 3 matches in the same day.

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César Gallo-Salazar, Francisco Areces, Javier Abián-Vicén, Beatriz Lara, Juan José Salinero, Cristina Gonzalez-Millán, Javier Portillo, Victor Muñoz, Daniel Juarez and Juan Del Coso

The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a caffeinated energy drink to enhance physical performance in elite junior tennis players. In 2 different sessions separated by 1 wk, 14 young (16 ± 1 y) elite-level tennis players ingested 3 mg caffeine per kg body mass in the form of an energy drink or the same drink without caffeine (placebo). After 60 min, participants performed a handgrip-strength test, a maximal-velocity serving test, and an 8 × 15-m sprint test and then played a simulated singles match (best of 3 sets). Instantaneous running speed during the matches was assessed using global positioning (GPS) devices. Furthermore, the matches were videotaped and notated afterward. In comparison with the placebo drink, the ingestion of the caffeinated energy drink increased handgrip force by ~4.2% ± 7.2% (P = .03) in both hands, the running pace at high intensity (46.7 ± 28.5 vs 63.3 ± 27.7 m/h, P = .02), and the number of sprints (12.1 ± 1.7 vs 13.2 ± 1.7, P = .05) during the simulated match. There was a tendency for increased maximal running velocity during the sprint test (22.3 ± 2.0 vs 22.9 ± 2.1 km/h, P = .07) and higher percentage of points won on service with the caffeinated energy drink (49.7% ± 9.8% vs 56.4% ± 10.0%, P = .07) in comparison with the placebo drink. The energy drink did not improve ball velocity during the serving test (42.6 ± 4.8 vs 42.7 ± 5.0 m/s, P = .49). The preexercise ingestion of caffeinated energy drinks was effective to enhance some aspects of physical performance of elite junior tennis players.

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Tim J. Gabbett, Ben Walker and Shane Walker

Purpose:

To investigate the influence of prior knowledge of exercise duration on the pacing strategies employed during gamebased activities.

Methods:

Twelve semiprofessional team-sport athletes (mean ± SD age 22.8 ± 2.1 y) participated in this study. Players performed 3 small-sided games in random order. In one condition (Control), players were informed that they would play the small-sided game for 12 min and then completed the 12-min game. In a 2nd condition (Deception), players were told that they would play the small-sided game for 6 minutes, but after completing the 6-min game, they were asked to complete another 6 min. In a 3rd condition (Unknown), players were not told how long they would be required to play the small-sided game, but the activity was terminated after 12 min. Movement was recorded using a GPS unit sampling at 10 Hz. Post hoc inspection of video footage was undertaken to count the number of possessions and the number and quality of disposals.

Results:

Higher initial intensities were observed in the Deception (130.6 ± 3.3 m/min) and Unknown (129.3 ± 2.4 m/min) conditions than the Control condition (123.3 ± 3.4 m/min). Greater amounts of high-speed running occurred during the initial phases of the Deception condition, and more low-speed activity occurred during the Unknown condition. A moderately greater number of total skill involvements occurred in the Unknown condition than the Control condition.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that during game-based activities, players alter their pacing strategy based on the anticipated endpoint of the exercise bout.

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Jamie Stanley, Shaun D’Auria and Martin Buchheit

The authors examined whether changes in heart-rate (HR) variability (HRV) could consistently track adaptation to training and race performance during a 32-wk competitive season. An elite male long-course triathlete recorded resting HR (RHR) each morning, and vagal-related indices of HRV (natural logarithm of the square root of mean squared differences of successive R−R intervals [ln rMSSD] and the ratio of ln rMSSD to R−R interval length [ln rMSSD:RR]) were assessed. Daily training load was quantified using a power meter and wrist-top GPS device. Trends in HRV indices and training load were examined by calculating standardized differences (ES). The following trends in week-to-week changes were consistently observed: (1) When the triathlete was coping with a training block, RHR decreased (ES −0.38 [90% confidence limits −0.05;−0.72]) and ln rMSSD increased (+0.36 [0.71;0.00]). (2) When the triathlete was not coping, RHR increased (+0.65 [1.29;0.00]) and ln rMSSD decreased (−0.60 [0.00;−1.20]). (3) Optimal competition performance was associated with moderate decreases in ln rMSSD (−0.86 [−0.76;−0.95]) and ln rMSSD:RR (−0.90 [−0.60;−1.20]) in the week before competition. (4) Suboptimal competition performance was associated with small decreases in ln rMSSD (−0.25 [−0.76;−0.95]) and trivial changes in ln rMSSD:RR (−0.04 [0.50;−0.57]) in the week before competition. To conclude, in this triathlete, a decrease in RHR concurrent with increased ln rMSSD compared with the previous week consistently appears indicative of positive training adaptation during a training block. A simultaneous reduction in ln rMSSD and ln rMSSD:RR during the final week preceding competition appears consistently indicative of optimal performance.

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Juan Del Coso, Javier Portillo, Juan José Salinero, Beatriz Lara, Javier Abian-Vicen and Francisco Areces

The aim of this investigation was to determine the efficacy of a caffeine-containing energy drink to improve physical performance of elite field hockey players during a game. On 2 days separated by a week, 13 elite field hockey players (age and body mass = 23.2 ± 3.9 years and 76.1 ± 6.1 kg) ingested 3 mg of caffeine per kg of body mass in the form of an energy drink or the same drink without caffeine (placebo drink). After 60 min for caffeine absorption, participants played a simulated field hockey game (2 × 25 min). Individual running pace and instantaneous speed during the game were assessed using GPS devices. The total number of accelerations and decelerations was determined by accelerometry. Compared with the placebo drink, the caffeinated energy drink did not modify the total distance covered during the game (6,035 ± 451 m and 6,055 ± 499 m, respectively; p = .87), average heart rate (155 ± 13 beats per min and 158 ± 18 beats per min, respectively; p = .46), or the number of accelerations and decelerations (697 ± 285 and 618 ± 221, respectively; p = .15). However, the caffeinated energy drink reduced the distance covered at moderate-intensity running (793 ± 135 and 712 ± 116, respectively; p = .03) and increased the distance covered at high-intensity running (303 ± 67 m and 358 ± 117 m; p = .05) and sprinting (85 ± 41 m and 117 ± 55 m, respectively; p = .02). Elite field hockey players can benefit from ingesting caffeinated energy drinks because they increase the running distance covered at high-intensity running and sprinting. Increased running distance at high speed might represent a meaningful advantage for field hockey performance.

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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.

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Courtney Sullivan, Johann C. Bilsborough, Michael Cianciosi, Joel Hocking, Justin T. Cordy and Aaron J. Coutts

Objectives:

To determine the physical activity measures and skill-performance characteristics that contribute to coaches’ perception of performance and player performance rank in professional Australian Football (AF).

Design:

Prospective, longitudinal.

Methods:

Physical activity profiles were assessed via microtechnology (GPS and accelerometer) from 40 professional AF players from the same team during 15 Australian Football League games. Skill-performance measure and player-rank scores (Champion Data Rank) were provided by a commercial statistical provider. The physical-performance variables, skill involvements, and individual player performance scores were expressed relative to playing time for each quarter. A stepwise multiple regression was used to examine the contribution of physical activity and skill involvements to coaches’ perception of performance and player rank in AF.

Results:

Stepwise multiple-regression analysis revealed that 42.2% of the variance in coaches’ perception of a player’s performance could be explained by the skill-performance characteristics (player rank/min, effective kicks/min, pressure points/min, handballs/min, and running bounces/min), with a small contribution from physical activity measures (accelerations/min) (adjusted R 2 = .422, F 6,282 = 36.054, P < .001). Multiple regression also revealed that 66.4% of the adjusted variance in player rank could be explained by total disposals/min, effective kicks/min, pressure points/min, kick clangers/min, marks/min, speed (m/min), and peak speed (adjusted R 2 = .664, F 7,281 = 82.289, P < .001). Increased physical activity throughout a match (speed [m/min] β – 0.097 and peak speed β – 0.116) negatively affects player rank in AF.

Conclusions:

Skill performance rather than increased physical activity is more important to coaches’ perception of performance and player rank in professional AF.

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Robert J. Aughey

Background:

Australian football (AF) is a highly intermittent sport, requiring athletes to accelerate hundreds of times with repeated bouts of high-intensity running (HIR). Players aim to be in peak physical condition for finals, with anecdotal evidence of increased speed and pressure of these games.

Purpose:

However, no data exists on the running demands of finals games, and therefore the aim of this study was to compare the running demands of finals to regular season games with matched players and opponents.

Methods:

Player movement was recorded by GPS at 5 Hz and expressed per period of the match (rotation), for total distance, high-intensity running (HIR, 4.17-10.00 m·s-1) and maximal accelerations (2.78-10.00 m·s–2). All data was compared for regular season and finals games and the magnitude of effects was analyzed with the effect size (ES) statistic and expressed with confidence intervals.

Results:

Each of the total distance (11%; ES: 0.78 ± 0.30), high-intensity running distance (9%; ES: 0.29 ± 0.25) and number of maximal accelerations (97%; ES: 1.30 ± 0.20) increased in finals games. The largest percentage increases in maximal accelerations occurred from a commencement velocity of between 3–4 (47%; ES: 0.56 ± 0.21) and 4–5 m·s-1 (51%; ES: 0.72 ± 0.26), and with <19 s between accelerations (53%; ES: 0.63 ± 0.27).

Conclusion:

Elite AF players nearly double the number of maximal accelerations in finals compared with regular season games. This large increase is superimposed on requirements to cover a greater total distance and spend more time at high velocity during finals games. Players can be effectively conditioned to cope with these increased demands, even during a long competitive season.

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Carlo Castagna, Lorenzo Francini, Susana C.A. Póvoas and Stefano D’Ottavio

Purpose:

To examine the acute effects of generic drills (running drills [RDs]) and specific (small-sided-games [SSGs]) long-sprint-ability (LSA) drills on internal and external load of male soccer players.

Methods:

Fourteen academy-level soccer players (mean ± SD age 17.6 ± 0.61 y, height 1.81 ± 0.63 m, body mass 69.53 ± 4.65 kg) performed four 30-s LSA bouts for maintenance (work:rest 1:2) and production (1:5) with RDs and SSGs. Players’ external load was tracked with GPS technology (20-Hz), and heart rate (HR), blood lactate concentration (BLc), and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were used to characterize players’ internal load. Individual peak BLc was assessed with a 30-s all-out test on a nonmotorized treadmill (NMT).

Results:

Compared with SSGs, the RDs had a greater effect on external load and BLc (large and small, respectively). During SSGs players covered more distance with high-intensity decelerations (moderate to small). Muscular RPE was higher (small to large) in RDs than in SSGs. The production mode exerted a moderate effect on BLc while the maintenance condition elicited higher cardiovascular effects (small to large).

Conclusion:

The results of this study showed the superiority of generic over specific drills in inducing LSA-related physiological responses. In this regard production RDs showed the higher postexercise BLc. Individual peak blood lactate responses were found after the NMT 30-s all-out test, suggesting this drill as a valid option to RDs. The practical physiological diversity among the generic and specific LSA drills here considered enable fitness trainers to modulate prescription of RD and SSG drills for LSA according to training schedule.

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Jace A. Delaney, Tannath J. Scott, Heidi R. Thornton, Kyle J.M. Bennett, David Gay, Grant M. Duthie and Ben J. Dascombe

Rugby league coaches often prescribe training to replicate the demands of competition. The intensities of running drills are often monitored in comparison with absolute match-play measures. Such measures may not be sensitive enough to detect fluctuations in intensity across a match or to differentiate between positions.

Purpose:

To determine the position- and duration-specific running intensities of rugby league competition, using a moving-average method, for the prescription and monitoring of training.

Methods:

Data from a 15-Hz global positioning system (GPS) were collected from 32 professional rugby league players across a season. The velocity–time curve was analyzed using a rolling-average method, where maximum values were calculated for 10 different durations, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 min, for each player across each match.

Results:

There were large differences between the 1- and 2-min rolling averages and all other rolling-average durations. Smaller differences were observed for rolling averages of greater duration. Fullbacks maintained a greater velocity than outside backs and middle and edge forwards over the 1- and 2-min rolling averages (ES 0.8−1.2, P < .05). For rolling averages 3 min and greater, the running demands of the fullbacks were greater than those of the middle forwards and outside backs (ES 1.1−1.4, P < .05).

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that the running demands of rugby league fluctuate vastly across a match. Fullbacks were the only position to exhibit a greater running intensity than any other position, and therefore training prescription should reflect this.