Elite Junior Australian Football Players Experience Significantly Different Loads Across Levels of Competition and Training Modes

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Abstract

Lathlean, TJH, Gastin, PB, Newstead, S, and Finch, CF. Elite junior Australian football players experience significantly different loads across levels of competition and training modes. J Strength Cond Res 32(7): 2031–2038, 2018—Well-developed physical qualities such as high jumping ability, running endurance, acceleration, and speed can help aspiring junior elite Australian football (AF) players transition to the Australian Football League competition. To do so, players need to experience sufficient load to enhance their physical resilience without increasing their risk of negative outcomes in terms of impaired wellness or injury. The aim of this study was to investigate the differences in load for different levels of competition and training modes across one competitive season. Elite junior AF players (n = 562, aged 17.7 ± 0.3, range: 16–18 years) were recruited from 9 teams across the under-18 state league competition in Victoria. All players recorded their training and match intensities according to the session rating of perceived exertion method. Training sessions were categorized according to skills, strength, conditioning, and other activities, whereas matches were identified according to level of competition. The loads in U18 state league matches (656.7 ± 210.9 au) were significantly higher (p = 0.027) than those in school matches (643.3 ± 260.9 au) and those in U18 representative matches (617.2 ± 175.4). Players, who undertook more than one match per week, experienced significantly less load in subsequent matches (p < 0.001). Furthermore, U18 state league training sessions carried the most load when compared with other training modes. This article highlights that different combinations of training and match involvement affect overall player load, which may predispose players to negative outcomes such as impaired wellness or increased injury risk.

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