Applied Sport Science of Rugby League

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Rugby league is a team sport in which players engage in repeated high-intensity exercise involving frequent collisions. Recent research, much of which has involved global positioning system (GPS) technology, has provided coaches and sport scientists with a deeper understanding of match demands, particularly at the elite level. This has allowed for the development of training programmes that prepare players for the most intense contact and running demands likely to be experienced in competition. At the elite level, rugby league players have well-developed aerobic and anaerobic endurance, muscular strength and power, reactive agility, and speed. Upper- and lower-body strength and aerobic power are associated with a broad range of technical and sport-specific skills, in addition to a lower risk of injury. Significant muscle damage (as estimated from creatine kinase concentrations) and fatigue occurs as a result of match-play; while muscle function and perceptual fatigue generally return to baseline 48 h following competition, increases in plasma concentrations of creatine kinase can last for up to 5 days post-match. Well-developed physical qualities may minimise post-match fatigue and facilitate recovery. Ultimately, the literature highlights that players require a broad range of physical and technical skills developed through specific training. This review evaluates the demands of the modern game, drawing on research that has used GPS technology. These findings highlight that preparing players based on the average demands of competition is likely to leave them underprepared for the most demanding passages of play. As such, coaches should incorporate drills that replicate the most intense repeated high-intensity demands of competition in order to prepare players for the worst-case scenarios expected during match-play.

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Journal Article

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Access to ACU Staff and Students