Modelling the HRV Response to Training Loads in Elite Rugby Sevens Players

Williams, S.; West, S.; Howells, D.; Kemp, S. P. T.; Flatt, A. A.; Stokes, K.

The study aimed to assess whether chronic heart rate variability (HRV) responses, indicative of training adaptation, could be predicted from the training loads undertaken by elite Rugby Sevens players. Eight international male players were monitored prospectively over an eight-week pre-season period, with daily recordings of HRV and training loads, measured through session-RPE (sRPE) and high-speed distance (HSD). The Banister model was employed to estimate vagally-mediated chronic HRV responses to training loads over the initial four weeks (tuning dataset), which were then used to predict HRV responses in the subsequent four-week period (validation dataset).

In the tuning dataset, high correlations were observed between modelled and recorded HRV for both sRPE and HSD measures. Across the sRPE validation dataset, seven of the eight athletes met the criterion for validity, compared to one athlete in the HSD validation dataset. The sRPE validation data showed likely lower mean bias values and most likely higher Pearson correlations compared to the HSD validation dataset.

These findings suggest that a systems theory approach can accurately model chronic HRV responses to internal training loads within elite Rugby Sevens players. This approach holds promise for optimizing the training process on an individual basis, potentially enhancing performance outcomes.

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