Influence of Physical Contact on Pacing Strategies During Game-Based Activities

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Repeated sprinting incorporating tackles leads to greater reductions in sprint performance than repeated sprinting alone. However, the influence of physical contact on the running demands of game-based activities is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether the addition of physical contact altered pacing strategies during game-based activities.


Twenty-three elite youth rugby league players were divided into 2 groups. Group 1 played the contact game on day 1 while group 2 played the noncontact game; 72 h later they played the alternate game. Each game consisted of offside touch on a 30 × 70-m field, played over two 8-min halves. Rules were identical between games except the contact game included a 10-s wrestle bout every 50 s. Microtechnology devices were used to analyze player movements.


There were greater average reductions during the contact game for distance (25%, 38 m/min, vs 10%, 20 m/min; effect size [ES] = 1.78 ± 1.02) and low-speed distance (21%, 24 m/min, vs 0%, 2 m/s; ES = 1.38 ± 1.02) compared with the noncontact game. There were similar reductions in high-speed running (41%, 18 m/min, vs 45%, 15 m/min; ES = 0.15 ± 0.95).


The addition of contact to game-based activities causes players to reduce low-speed activity in an attempt to maintain high-intensity activities. Despite this, players were unable to maintain high-speed running while performing contact efforts. Improving a player’s ability to perform contact efforts while maintaining running performance should be a focus in rugby league training.

Johnston and Gabbett are with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Seibold is with Melbourne Storm Rugby League Football Club, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Jenkins is with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Address author correspondence to Rich Johnston at