Neuromuscular, Endocrine, and Perceptual Fatigue Responses During Different Length Between-Match Microcycles in Professional Rugby League Players

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Blake D. McLean
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Aaron J. Coutts
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Vince Kelly
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Michael R. McGuigan
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Stuart J. Cormack
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Introduction:

The purpose of this study was to examine the changes in neuromuscular, perceptual and hormonal measures following professional rugby league matches during different length between-match microcycles.

Methods:

Twelve professional rugby league players from the same team were assessed for changes in countermovement jump (CMJ) performance (fight time and relative power), perceptual responses (fatigue, well-being and muscle soreness) and salivary hormone (testosterone [T] and cortisol [C]) levels during 5, 7 and 9 d between-match training microcycles. All training was prescribed by the club coaches and was monitored using the session-RPE method.

Results:

Lower mean daily training load was completed on the 5 d compared with the 7 and 9 d microcycles. CMJ fight time and relative power, perception of fatigue, overall well-being and muscle soreness were signifcantly reduced in the 48 h following the match in each microcycle (P < .05). Most CMJ variables returned to near baseline values following 4 d in each microcycle. Countermovement jump relative power was lower in the 7 d microcycle in comparison with the 9 d microcycle (P < .05). There was increased fatigue at 48 h in the 7 and 9 d microcycles (P < .05) but had returned to baseline in the 5 d microcycle. Salivary T and C did not change in response to the match.

Discussion:

Neuromuscular performance and perception of fatigue are reduced for at least 48 h following a rugby league match but can be recovered to baseline levels within 4 d. These fndings show that with appropriate training, it is possible to recover neuromuscular and perceptual measures within 4 d after a rugby league match.

Blake D. McLean is with the School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, University of Technology, Sydney, Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia, and with the South Sydney Rugby League Football Club, Redfern, New South Wales, Australia.Aaron J. Coutts is with the School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, University of Technology, Sydney, Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia.Vince Kelly is with the South Sydney Rugby League Football Club, Redfern, New South Wales, Australia, and with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia.Michael R. McGuigan is with the New Zealand Academy of Sport, Auckland, New Zealand and with the Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.Stuart J. Cormack is with the Essendon Football Club, Essendon, Victoria, Australia.

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