Rugby Science Update 1

The impact of matches and travel on rugby players’ sleep, wellness and training

The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of trans-meridian travel and matches on the sleep, wellness, and training of players from four Super Rugby teams during the 2017 Super Rugby season. Travel was associated with substantial sleep deprivation for three of the teams when overseas, which can be explained by travel fatigue, jet lag and a disruption of the normal sleep habit (sleeping in a non-familiar environment and sharing room with a team-mate). The findings of this research suggest that players in four Super Rugby players suffer reduced wellness and an overall sleep deficit when they travel overseas. As trans-meridian travel appears to affect players’ sleep, teams should implement strategies such as melatonin supplementation and light exposure to reduce the effect of jet lag. A correct sleep hygiene could also help players in catching up with the sleep loss they may experience throughout the season and following travel. As there was some evidence of substantial individual responses, teams should carefully monitor the sleep of their players with particular attention to those who sleep more than average, as they may suffer more sleep disruption.

Lo, M., Aughey, R. J., Hopkins, W. G., Gill, N., & Stewart, A. M. (2022). The impact of matches and travel on rugby players’ sleep, wellness and training. PloS one, 17(2), e0261517.

Training load, injury burden, and team success in professional rugby union: risk versus reward

The purpose of this study was to establish whether associations among training load, injury burden, and performance exist within rugby. The study found injury burden was negatively associated with performance, whereas training load measures displayed only trivial associations with performance.

West, S. W., Williams, S., Kemp, S., Eager, R., Cross, M. J., & Stokes, K. A. (2020). Training load, injury burden, and team success in professional rugby union: Risk versus reward. Journal of athletic training, 55(9), 960-966.

Physical characteristics of different professional rugby union competition levels

The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether differences in physical characteristics (running-related and collision-related) derived from microsensor technology exist between four different professional rugby union competition levels. The study found collisions per minute, Collision Load™ per minute and High Metabolic Load Efforts per minute were all higher during International Rugby and European Rugby Champions Cup match-play, when compared to PRO14 and British and Irish Cup match-play. Distance per minute and High-Speed Running distance per minute were lower during International Rugby and European Rugby Champions Cup match-play, when compared with PRO14 and British and Irish Cup match-play. Our data suggest that rugby union players require specific physical preparation for different levels of competition. In particular, players may need specific preparation for higher collision demands at higher levels of competition.

Tierney, P., Blake, C., & Delahunt, E. (2021). Physical characteristics of different professional rugby union competition levels. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 24(12), 1267-1271.

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