Category: Strength and Conditioning

Rugby Science Update 6

The role of player mass and contact speed on head kinematics and neck dynamics in rugby union tackling

This study aimed to use multi- body modeling simulations to examine how tackler and ball carrier mass and contact speed affect inertial head kinematics and neck dynamics. Simulations were run by independently varying the ball carrier and tackler mass (from 60 to 110kg) and speed (from 0 to 10 m/s). Peak resultant inertial neck dynamics (force and moment) and head kinematics (linear acceleration, angular acceleration, and angular velocity) were extracted from each simulation. The study found that the greatest inertial head kinematics and neck dynamics were sustained by a lighter player during a tackle with a heavier player, irrespective of their role as a tackler or ball carrier. For contact speed, the greatest inertial head kinematics and neck dynamics sustained by the ball carrier and tackler were when they were both traveling at the highest speed.

This study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports

Tierney, G. J., & Tucker, R. (2022). The role of player mass and contact speed on head kinematics and neck dynamics in rugby union tackling. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 32(2), 298-312.

Tackle technique and changes in Playerload™ during a simulated tackle: an exploratory study

The aim of this study was to explore how PlayerLoad™ changes between different levels of tackling technique during a simulated tackle. PlayerLoad™ did not significantly differ between technical score categories at the point of contact. However, during the tackle completion phase, tackles within the high technical scoring category recorded a higher PlayerLoadTM than low and medium technical scoring tackles. The PlayerLoad™ trace of tackles within the high technical scoring category were also more consistent throughout the tackle. The variability in the PlayerLoad™ trace may be the consequence of players not shortening their steps before contact, reducing their ability to control their movement during the contact and post-contact phase of the tackle. Using the PlayerLoad™ trace in conjunction with technique assessments offers coaches and practitioners insight into the physical-technical relationship of each tackle to optimise tackle skill training, monitoring and match preparation.

This study was published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine and free to download. 

Paul, L., Davidow, D., James, G., Ross, T., Lambert, M., Burger, N., … & Hendricks, S. (2022). Tackle Technique and Changes in Playerload™ During a Simulated Tackle: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 21(3), 383-393.  

Three-dimensional mechanics of the rugby tackle, does the ball carrier alter their movement into contact in response to the tackler’s position?

The aim of this exploratory study was to identify if, when, and how, the ball carrier modified their motion when being tackled, in response to specific tackle instructions given to the tackler. The ball carrier was observed to modify their behaviour in response to anticipated changes in the tackler’s motion. Specifically, the ball carrier positioned their body at contact using one of two movement strategies: (1) increasing their stability via flexing their trunk, knee, and hips more when entering mid or high trunk tackles; or (2) offload the ball or perform an evasive movement strategy by positioning themselves in a more upright body position when being tackled at a low trunk tackle height. These findings, together with knowledge of tackle injury-risk factors, could inform future coaching interventions for the ball carrier to optimise their performance and mitigate injury risk during the tackle.

This study was published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching and is free to access. 

Edwards, S., Tahu, T., Buchanan, M., Tucker, R., Fuller, G., & Gardner, A. J. (2022). Three-dimensional mechanics of the rugby tackle, does the ball carrier alter their movement into contact in response to the tackler’s position?. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 17(2), 298-308.

Rugby Science Update 5

Activate is a 15–20min warm-up programme, designed to be completed prior to training and matches, with progressive, age-specific programmes. Neuromuscular training programmes such as Activate appear to have a dose–response relationship with injury rates, with three sessions per week providing the greatest preventative effect. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of Activate to lower match and training injury rates (incidence and burden) in schoolboy rugby union (under-12 to under-19). The secondary aim was to examine the dose–response relationship between weekly Activate adherence and injury incidence.

Individuals adopting Activate had a significantly lower training injury incidence than non-adopters, and lower match incidence and burden. Players completing Activate three times per week had significantly lower training and match incidence compared with those with low (<1 session) weekly adherence. Two-thirds of teams adopted Activate, with most completing Acti- vate three times per week. However, Activate was often not implemented as intended, with teams not using whole phases or failing to progress the programme.

The full text article is free to download in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Barden, C., Hancock, M. V., Stokes, K. A., Roberts, S. P., & McKay, C. D. (2022). Effectiveness of the Activate injury prevention exercise programme to prevent injury in schoolboy rugby union. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Online first. 

Physical and Technical Demands and Preparatory Strategies in Female Field Collision Sports: A Scoping Review

Women’s participation in field collision sports is growing worldwide. Scoping reviews provide an overview of scientific literature in a developing area to support practitioners, policy, and research priorities. The aim of this study was to explore the published research and synthesise information on the physical and technical demands and preparation strategies of female field collision sports. 43 studies met the inclusion criteria. Physical demands were the most highly investigated (n=24), followed by technical demands (n-18), tactical considerations (n=8) and preparatory strategies (n=1). The key themes embody a holistic model contributing to both performance and injury prevention outcomes in the context of female field collision sports. Findings suggest a gender data gap across all themes and a low evidence base to inform those preparing female athletes for match demands. Given the physical and technical differences in match-demands the review findings do not support the generalisation of male-derived training data to female athletes.

The full text article is published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine.

Dane, K., Simms, C., Hendricks, S., West, S. W., Griffin, S., Nugent, F. J., … & Wilson, F. (2022). Physical and Technical Demands and Preparatory Strategies in Female Field Collision Sports: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Sports Medicine. Online first. 

Players’, parents’ and staffs’ perceptions of injury prevention exercise programmes in youth rugby union

In youth rugby union, there is a belief that the risk of injury is high and that injuries can be prevented; however, successful implementation of injury prevention exercise programmes in ball sports is limited by barriers such as lack of time, resources and player or staff attitude and motivation. Stakeholders’ attitudes and beliefs regarding injury risk and prevention are important to understand, as they play a role in the adoption of injury prevention exercise programmes. This study aimed to describe staff members’, players’ and parents’ knowledge and perceptions of injury risk, injury severity and injury prevention in youth rugby union in Australia and explore facilitators and barriers to performing an injury prevention exercise programme. Staff, parents and players agree that the risk of injury is high, that injuries can be serious and that preventing injury is important. Allied health staff such as strength and conditioning coaches should be considered a viable alternative to coaches where available, although coaches remain key influencers and leaders in this setting. Barrier themes to performing an injury prevention exercise programme included poor attitude or motivation of the players, limitations related to the programme, poor attitude or motivation of staff, and lack of leadership in implementation of the programme. Facilitators to performing an injury prevention exercise programme included positive behaviour change through the use of structure and routine, strong leadership displayed by coaches and/or administration with the creation of rules or policy, leadership through positive role modelling, positive attitude of the players, and positive attitude of the staff.

This article is open-access in BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine.

Sly, N., Soomro, M., Withall, A. L., Cullen, P., Turner, R. M., & Flahive, S. R. (2022). Players’, parents’ and staffs’ perceptions of injury prevention exercise programmes in youth rugby union. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 8(2), e001271.

    Rugby Science Update 4

    The Return to Sport Clearance Continuum

    The purpose of this article is to explore the concept of Return To Sport (RTS) being part of an evolving continuum rather than the traditional notion that RTS is a single decision made at a discrete point in time. The authors describe a 5 phase continuum – the Return to Sport Clearance Continuum (RTSCC).

    The first phase is the repair phase, where initial healing occurs post surgery. This is where swelling will be minimized, range of motion will be increased, and proper muscle activation will occur. Next will be the rehabilitation and recovery phase, where normal arthrokinematics are going to be restored. Then, the athlete will move to the reconditioning phase, where the focus will be on skill and force development, along with load volume tolerance. The athlete will then progress to the performance phase, where the athlete will transition to full team practice and competition. Finally, they will progress to the preseason/training camp phase, where they will properly be managed for the upcoming season after injury. Throughout the continuum training loads need. to be monitored on a near daily basis when possible, to avoid overloading the healing tissues.

    Full-text article:

    Draovitch, P., Patel, S., Marrone, W., Grundstein, M. J., Grant, R., Virgile, A., … & Jones, K. (2022). The Return-to-Sport Clearance Continuum Is a Novel Approach Toward Return to Sport and Performance for the Professional Athlete. Arthroscopy, sports medicine, and rehabilitation, 4(1), e93-e101.

    Skill Training Periodization in “Specialist” Sports Coaching

    In this paper, the authors propose a skill training periodization framework for “specialist coaches” based on skill training theory. Skill Training can be divided up into coordination training, skill adaptability training and performance training.

    This article is open access and free to download.

    Otte, F. W., Millar, S. K., & Klatt, S. (2019). Skill training periodization in “specialist” sports coaching—an introduction of the “PoST” framework for skill development. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 1, 61.

    Strength and conditioning in schools: a strategy to optimise health, fitness and physical activity in youths

    In this editorial, the authors argue that schools are an ideal environment for mass implementation of strength and conditioning interventions to support youth development. The author recommend that schools should aim to systematically incorporate strength and conditioning and wider physical activity into year-round timetables. This could be achieved by employing qualified youth strength and conditioning practitioners, and/or educating and upskilling current staff and stakeholders.

    Full-text article:

    Till, K., Bruce, A., Green, T., Morris, S. J., Boret, S., & Bishop, C. J. (2022). Strength and conditioning in schools: a strategy to optimise health, fitness and physical activity in youths. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 56(9), 479-480.