Relationship between physical performance testing results and peak running intensity during professional rugby league match play

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between individual athletes' physical characteristics and both the peak running intensities and the decline in peak running intensities during competition. Twenty-two professional rugby league athletes (age; 24.1 ± 4.0 years, body mass; 101.4 ± 9.5 kg) underwent a series of physical testing procedures. Peak running intensity was determined using a moving average technique, applied to the speed (m·min-1), acceleration/deceleration (m·s-2) and metabolic power (W·kg-1) during competition, across 10 different durations. The power law relationship was then established, yielding an intercept and slope for the movement variables. Mixed linear models were then used to determine the relationship between physical characteristics and intercept and slope values. There were large, positive relationships between a player’s maximal speed and both peak running speeds (ES = 0.56, 90% CI: 0.20 to 0.78) and metabolic power (0.57, 0.21 to 0.79) during competition. In contrast, there were large, negative associations between maximal speed and the rate of decline in running speed (-0.60, -0.81 to -0.27) and metabolic power (-0.65, -0.83 to -0.32) during competition. Similarly, there were negative associations between relative squat strength and the rate of decline in running speed (moderate: -0.41, -0.69 to -0.04) and metabolic power (large: -0.53, -0.77 to -0.17) during competition. The findings of this study demonstrate that a players running intensity during competition is underpinned by the individual athletes physiological qualities. Athletes demonstrating higher maximal speeds in testing were able to maintain higher running intensities over short durations, but had a greater decrease in running intensity as duration increased.

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