Quantifying Movement Demands of AFL Football Using GPS Tracking

Wisbey, B., Montgomery, P.G., Pyne, D.B., Rattray, B.

Global positioning system (GPS) monitoring of movement patterns is widespread in elite football, including the Australian Football League (AFL). However, documented analysis of this activity is lacking. We quantified the movement patterns of AFL football and differences between nomadic (midfield), forward, and defender playing positions, and determined whether the physical demands have increased over a four-season period. Selected premiership games were monitored during the 2005 (n = 80 game files), 2006 (n = 244), 2007 (n = 632), and 2008 (n = 793) AFL seasons. Players were fitted with a shoulder harness containing a GPS unit. GPS data were downloaded after games, and the following measures were extracted: total distance (km), time in various speed zones, maximum speed, number of surges, accelerations, longest continuous efforts, and a derived exertion index representing playing intensity. In 2008, nomadic players covered per game 3.4% more total distance (km), had 4.8% less playing time (min), a 17% higher exertion index (per min), and 23% more time running >18 km/h than forwards and defenders (all p < 0.05). Physical demands were substantially higher in the 2008 season compared with 2005: an 8.4% increase in mean speed, a 14% increase in intensity (exertion index), and a 9.0% decrease in playing time (all p < 0.05). Nomadic players in AFL work substantially harder than forwards and defenders in covering more ground and at higher running intensities. Increases in the physical demands of AFL football were evident between 2005 and 2008.

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