This study examined the body composition, nutritional knowledge, behaviors, attitudes, and educational needs of senior schoolboy rugby players in Ireland.
Participants included 203 male rugby players age 15–18 yr competing at Senior School’s Cup level in Leinster, Ireland. Estimation of body composition included measurement of height, weight, and percentage body fat (PBF; using bioelectrical impedance analysis, Tanita BC-418). Nutritional knowledge, behaviors, attitudes, and education needs were assessed by questionnaire.
The range of PBF was 5.1–25.3%. Sixty-eight percent of the players in this study had a healthy PBF (10–20%), 32 (22%) were classified as underweight (<10% body fat), and 9.7% (n = 14) were overweight. Assessment of nutritional knowledge demonstrated poor knowledge of the foods required for refueling, appropriate use of sports drinks, and the role of protein in muscle formation. Alcohol consumption and dietary supplement use were reported by 87.7% and 64.5%, respectively. A perception that greater body size enhances sport performance did not predict dietary supplement use. Nutritional advice had been previously sought by 121 players from coaches (66.9%), magazines (42.1%), Web sites (38.8%), peers (35.5%), family (28.1%), sport organizations (16.5%), and health professionals (8.2%). Nutritional knowledge was no better in these players, nor did better nutritional knowledge correlate with positive dietary behaviors or attitudes.
Most players had a healthy PBF. Despite a positive attitude toward nutrition, poor nutritional knowledge and dietary practices were observed in many players. Young athletes’ nutritional knowledge and dietary practices may benefit from appropriate nutritional education.
Walsh, Cartwright, Corish, and Sugrue are with the School of Biological Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Wood-Martin is with the Irish Rugby Football Union, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.