Monitoring Rugby Players for Fitness and Fatigue: What Do Coaches Want?

Starling, L. T.; Lambert, M. I.

The purpose of this study was to address the barriers preventing rugby teams from implementing systematic monitoring programs for training load and associated responses, due to lack of resources and time. The specific objectives were to identify the methods currently used by rugby teams to monitor training load and responses, and to outline prerequisites for a monitoring protocol that is both scientifically suitable and practically applicable for monitoring fitness and fatigue in rugby players.

A questionnaire was distributed online to coaches and support staff working with rugby teams at various levels. From the 55 respondents, 96% emphasized the importance of monitoring training load and responses, but noted the absence of a cost-effective, time-efficient, and non-aversive monitoring protocol for players. The survey revealed that respondents utilized various variables for monitoring, with a preference for subjective measures over objective ones.

Respondents expressed a desire for a monitoring protocol that is time-efficient (5-10 minutes) and provides immediate feedback on player fatigue. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of the protocol meeting basic clinimetric principles of reliability and validity. This includes understanding the technical and biological errors in measurements to distinguish meaningful changes in fatigue and fitness from natural variations.

In conclusion, the study identified prerequisites for an ideal monitoring protocol for rugby players, which should adhere to scientific principles while meeting the practical demands of coaches and support staff. A protocol fulfilling these prerequisites would likely be well-received and effectively implemented within rugby teams, aiding in the optimization of player performance and injury prevention.

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