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Real-World Fatigue Testing in Professional Rugby Union: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Adam Grainger Orcid Logo, Paul Comfort Orcid Logo, Craig Twist Orcid Logo, Shane Heffernan Orcid Logo, Giampiero Tarantino Orcid Logo

Sports Medicine

Swansea University Author: Shane Heffernan Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Background: Elite rugby union is a high-intensity contact sport with position specific high training and match volumes across a season that may lead to periods of fatigue if above a typically experienced threshold. This study assesses the influence of match-play and/or training on fatigue levels in...

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Published in: Sports Medicine
ISSN: 0112-1642 1179-2035
Published: Springer Science and Business Media LLC 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa65575
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Abstract: Background: Elite rugby union is a high-intensity contact sport with position specific high training and match volumes across a season that may lead to periods of fatigue if above a typically experienced threshold. This study assesses the influence of match-play and/or training on fatigue levels in rugby union players.Objective: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of measures used to assess fatigue status in male professional rugby union players.Methods: Using electronic databases, a systematic review of fatigue testing in rugby union was conducted on 1) neuromuscular, 2) subjective self-report, 3) biochemical and 4) heart rate derived measures.Results: Thirty-seven articles were included in this systematic review, of which 14 were further included in a meta-analyses. The results of the meta-analysis revealed small, yet not significant, decreases in countermovement jump height immediately after (ES = -0.29; 95% CIs = -0.64 to 0.06), 24 hours (ES = -0.43; 95% CIs = -3.99 to 3.21), and 48 hours (ES = -0.22; 95% CIs = -0.47 to 0.02) after exposure to rugby union match-play or training. Reported wellness (ES = -0.33; 95% CIs = -1.70 to 1.04) and tiredness (ES = -0.14; 95% CIs = -1.30 to 1.03) declined over a period of a few weeks (however, the results were not-statistically significant), meanwhile muscle soreness increased (ES = 0.91; 95% CIs = 0.06 to 1.75) within the 96 hours after the exposure to rugby union match-play or training. Finally, while cortisol concentrations (ES = 1.87; 95% CIs = -1.54 to 5.29) increased, testosterone declined (ES = -1.54; 95% CIs = -7.16 to 4.08) within the 24 hours after the exposure. However, these results were not-statistically significant.Conclusions: Subjective measures of muscle soreness can be used to assess fatigue after match play and training in rugby union players. Within and between-study variability for the countermovement jump (assessed via jump height), biochemical markers and heart-rate derived measures means the utility of these measures to assess fatigue in professional rugby union players after matches and training is unclear.
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Funders: No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article