Rugby Science Update 3

A game for all shapes and sizes? Changes in anthropometric and performance measures of elite professional rugby union players 1999–2018

This study aimed to assess the longitudinal changes in mass, velocity, momentum and peak kinetic energy using two decades of standardised elite and international rugby player data. The study showed that professional players are now leaner, heavier, faster and cover more distance than ever before. When professional rugby players collide, the forces involved have also risen. The implications of these findings however are yet to be fully understood.

This article is open access and free to download on the journal’s website.

Bevan, T., Chew, S., Godsland, I., Oliver, N. S., & Hill, N. E. (2022). A game for all shapes and sizes? Changes in anthropometric and performance measures of elite professional rugby union players 1999–2018. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 8(1), e001235. 

Poor isometric neck extension strength as a risk factor for concussion in male professional Rugby Union players

This study aimed to establish if reduced neck strength was a risk factor for concussion in professional male rugby players. The study identified a specific neck strength range associated with increased concussion rates and found that reduced neck extension strength is a risk factor for concussion in male professional rugby players.

Farley, T., Barry, E., Sylvester, R., De Medici, A., & Wilson, M. G. (2022). Poor isometric neck extension strength as a risk factor for concussion in male professional Rugby Union players. British journal of sports medicine. Online first. 

Effectiveness of the Activate injury prevention exercise programme to prevent injury in schoolboy rugby union

The main aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of Activate (a 15–20 min warm-up programme) to lower match and training injury rates (incidence and burden) in schoolboy rugby union (under-12 to under-19). A secondary aim was to examine the dose–response relationship between weekly Activate adherence and injury incidence. The study found individuals playing for teams adopting Activate had a lower match and training injury incidence when compared with those not using Activate. Individuals with high weekly Activate adherence (≥3 Activate sessions per week) had a lower match and training injury incidence than those with low adherence (<1 Activate session per week). Therefore, Activate appears effective at lowering injury risk in schoolboy rugby union, with maximum benefit when completing the programme three times per week.

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. 

 

Rugby Science Update 2

Comparison of Weightlifting, Traditional Resistance Training and Plyometrics on Strength, Power and Speed: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis

This review aimed to explore whether weightlifting resulted in greater improvements in measures of strength, power, speed and change of direction speed compared with traditional resistance training, plyometric training or controls. Findings from 16 studies suggested there are moderate to large benefits of weightlifting for improvements in strength, counter movement jump, squat jump and speed performance when compared with no additional training beyond sports practice or typical physical activities. Whilst improvements in strength were found to be similar following both weightlifting and traditional resistance training, weightlifting may be superior for improvements in weightlifting performance (i.e. load lifted) and counter movement jump height. Factors such as population characteristics or programme design may also influence these outcomes.

This article is open access and the full article is free to download.

Morris, S. J., Oliver, J. L., Pedley, J. S., Haff, G. G., & Lloyd, R. S. (2022). Comparison of Weightlifting, Traditional Resistance Training and Plyometrics on Strength, Power and Speed: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 1-22.

What Learning Environments Help Improve Decision-Making?

This study attempted to provide a greater understanding of coaches’ perceptions and strategies for specifically developing on-ball decision-making abilities in players. In the paper, the authors were interested in what strategies coaches believe would improve player decision-making, how they would create a learning environment to specifically train decision-making, and how this may influence the on-ball decision-making opportunities for the players.

The study found coaches are aware of the strategies which may promote decision-making opportunities for players such as the use of questioning, constraints-led pedagogy and using Playing Form rather than Training Form activities. While the data may suggest coaches are aware of potential strategies to promote player decision-making and are attempting to move away from traditional coaching approaches, the findings provide evidence to suggest that coaches still over-coach, with high amounts of instruction and a very stop-start nature to the activity. This coaching practice potentially limits the problem-solving and decision-making demands on players. The findings support researchers who indicate there is still a disconnect between intention and practice, with the application of more effective coaching methods proposed in the research still a challenge to implement for coaches.

O’Connor, D., Larkin, P., & Williams, A. M. (2017). What learning environments help improve decision-making?. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 22(6), 647-660.

Characteristics of Complex Systems in Sports Injury Rehabilitation: Examples and Implications for Practice

This review applies the complex systems approach to return to sport. The paper highlights the characteristics and terminologies of complex systems, using a case of anterior cruciate ligament injury rehabilitation. Alternative forms of scientific inquiry, such as the use of computational and simulation-based techniques, are also discussed—to move the complex systems approach from the theoretical to the practical level.

This article is open access and the full article is free to download.

Yung, K. K., Ardern, C. L., Serpiello, F. R., & Robertson, S. (2022). Characteristics of complex systems in sports injury rehabilitation: examples and implications for practice. Sports Medicine-Open, 8(1), 1-15.

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.