Athlete Monitoring in Rugby Union: Is Heterogeneity in Data Capture Holding Us Back?

West, S. W.; Williams, S.; Kemp, S. P. T.; Cross, M. J.; Stokes, K. A.

Abstract: Athlete monitoring has become increasingly important in professional sport to manage the growing demands on players. However, there is limited understanding of the practices employed in professional rugby clubs, particularly regarding the use of new technologies for athlete monitoring. To address this gap, a questionnaire was distributed among conditioning staff across the 12 Premiership rugby clubs to gather information on the methods used, their relative importance, perceived effectiveness, and barriers to the use of various athlete monitoring measurements.

The results indicate that previous injury history, Global Positioning System (GPS) metrics, collision counts, and age were considered the most important risk factors for managing future injury risk. A wide range of GPS metrics were collected across clubs, with high-speed running, distance in speed zones, and total distance being the most commonly used. Among the metrics collected, high-speed running was deemed the most important for managing future injury risk by some clubs. However, there was considerable variation between clubs in defining high-speed running, with both absolute and relative measures being utilized.

While the use of monitoring tools aims to improve athlete welfare by minimizing injury risk, this study highlights significant heterogeneity in the systems and methods used by clubs for GPS capture. The findings raise questions about the need for greater alignment of practices within the sport to enhance athlete welfare.

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