Match-Play Movement and Metabolic Power Demands of Elite Youth, Sub-elite, and Elite Senior Australian Footballers

Kelly, S.J., Watsford, M.L., Rennie, M.J., Spurrs, R.W., Austin, D., Pine, M.J.

Currently, minimal research has quantified physical requirement differences in match-play between youth and senior Australian football players. The aim of the current research was to describe and compare the movement profiles and energy cost of youth, sub-elite, and elite senior Australian football match-play.

Fifty-seven Australian footballers playing in an elite senior (20), sub-elite senior (16), and elite youth competition (21) participated in this study. Distance, speed-based indices, and metabolic power measures recorded via Global Positioning System (GPS) devices were compared across three competition tiers. Kicks and handballs were collected via a commercial statistics provider (Champion Data) and compared across the competition tiers.

Youth players recorded less field time (elite: ES = 1.37 / sub-elite: ES = 1.68), total distance (elite: ES = 1.64 / sub-elite: ES = 1.55), and high-speed running (elite: ES = 0.90 / sub-elite: ES = 0.26) compared to the elite and sub-elite players. The average energy cost of elite (ES = 2.19) and sub-elite (ES = 1.58) match-play was significantly higher than youth match-play.

A progressive increase regarding physical demands was evident across AF competition tiers. The findings suggest that sub-elite match-play can provide a viable pathway for youth players to develop physical capacity and technical skills before transitioning to elite senior match-play.

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