The Effect of Training Load on Neuromuscular Performance, Muscle Soreness, and Wellness During an In-Season Non-Competitive Week in Elite Rugby Athletes

Tavares, F.; Healey, P.; Smith, T. B.; Driller, M.

BACKGROUND: Understanding the impact of training load on fatigue, soreness, and readiness is crucial in elite rugby. This study aimed to monitor the training load, wellness, neuromuscular fatigue markers, and soreness perception in 16 elite rugby athletes during a training week.

METHODS: Training load was assessed for field sessions, extra conditioning, and gym sessions. Participants reported perceptual fatigue using a 5-item wellness questionnaire and muscle soreness across nine different muscle sites on each side of the body. Neuromuscular performance was evaluated via countermovement jumps.

RESULTS: While day 4 of training showed a significantly higher load compared to days 1 and 2, muscle soreness and neuromuscular performance were more negatively impacted after cumulative workloads from days 1 and 2. Additionally, the effect of training load on muscle soreness was primarily observed in lower body muscles. The study also suggests that two days off training are sufficient for complete recovery from a high-load training week in elite rugby athletes. No significant differences were found in soreness ratings between left and right sides across the nine muscle sites.

CONCLUSION: Training load significantly influences soreness and neuromuscular fatigue, with greater fatigue observed after consecutive training days compared to a single training day. Monitoring soreness from different lower body muscle sites may offer valuable insights into the fatigue levels of rugby athletes, highlighting the importance of including such assessments in training load monitoring protocols.

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