Player Responses to Match and Training Demands During an Intensified Fixture Schedule in Professional Rugby League: A Case Study

Twist, C.; Highton, J.; Daniels, M.; Mill, N.; Close, G.

Objective: To assess player loads and fatigue responses in professional rugby league players during a period of intensified fixtures.

Participants: The study involved 15 professional rugby league players with an average age of 24.3 years.

Methods: Repeated measures of internal and external loads, perceived well-being, and jump flight time were recorded across 22 days, including nine training sessions and matches on days 5, 12, 15, and 21. The player exposure during this period averaged 3.6 matches per player.

Results: Mean training load, calculated as session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE) multiplied by duration, varied between matches, ranging from 103 to 1177 AU. Relative distance covered during matches fluctuated, with Match 1 and Match 4 showing lower values compared to Matches 2 and 3. High-intensity running was significantly lower in Matches 2-4 compared to Match 1. Low-intensity activity varied across matches but was generally lower in Matches 2 and 4 compared to Matches 1 and 3. Accumulated accelerometer load also varied between matches. Perceived well-being returned to baseline values before matches but was lower the day after each match. Pre-match jump flight times decreased across the period.

Conclusion: Professional rugby league players experience cumulative neuromuscular fatigue and impaired match running performance during a 22-day cycle with fixture congestion.

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