Determining high intensity activity in women’s rugby union: Use of current use of male derived absolute speed thresholds underestimates true levels

Bradley, Eddie, Board, Lisa, Hogg, Robert and Archer, David (2018) Determining high intensity activity in women’s rugby union: Use of current use of male derived absolute speed thresholds underestimates true levels. Journal of Sports Sciences, 36 (Supp 1). pp. 1-94. ISSN 0264-0414

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The use of GPS-based movement information in elite
women’s rugby union is gaining popularity. However,
speed thresholds are currently based on data derived
from the men’s game (for example Cunniffe et al., 2009,
Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, 1195–1203)
and evidence suggests the maximum speeds achieved by
female players are 2–6 km/h slower (Suarez-Arrones et al.,
2014, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(2),
452–458). The aim of the study was to examine the effect
of reducing the absolute speed thresholds on the volume
of high speed running and sprinting in women’s rugby.
With institutional ethical approval, Catapult Minimax S4
units were used to collect movement data from 58 players
in five TP15 rugby matches. Total distance (m) and % time
spent in high intensity running (HIR) and sprint (Spr) zones
were measured adopting existing Cunniffe et al. (2009)
criteria (HIR > 18 km/h; Spr > 21 km/h) (Absolute-1). Two
alternative zone adjustments based on the lower maximum
speeds reported by Suarez-Arrones et al. (2014) were compared: Absolute-2 (HIR > 16 km/h; Spr > 19 km/h) and
Absolute-3 (HIR > 14 km/h; Spr > 17 km/h). Data were
analysed using a one-way ANOVA to determine significant
differences in total distances and % time between the
thresholds. Effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals were
calculated to identify the magnitude of observed changes.
Only 24 players (41%) achieved speeds greater than the
21 km/h sprint threshold. HIR and Spr distances using the
male-derived thresholds were 63 m and 30 m respectively.
Significantly greater distances and % time spent at higher
intensity speeds were observed when female-adjusted
thresholds were applied: HIR distance: 239 m, P < 0.01, ES
1.45; Spr distance: 137 m, P < 0.01, ES 0.94 (Absolute-3) and HIR distance: 139 m, P = 0.01, ES 0.80; Spr distance: 60 m, P = 0.131, ES 0.41 (Absolute-2). Significant, moderate to
large increases were observed for the % time for HIR and
Spr respectively: 0.12% and 0.03% (Absolute-1); 0.41%
(P = 0.003; ES 0.68) and 0.07% (P = 0.614; ES 0.18)
(Absolute-2) and 0.88% (P < 0.01; ES 1.39) and 0.36%
(P < 0.01; ES 0.81) (Absolute-3). Whilst changes were
expected, existing male-derived thresholds appear to
underestimate the movement patterns of female players.
With adjusted speed thresholds, the volume of high intensity
activity in the women’s game aligns more closely to
that observed during men’s English Premiership matchplay.
Preliminary findings indicate that female-specific
speed thresholds should be utilised in future where arbitrary thresholds are implemented.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Sciences > Sport Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing
Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing > School of Nursing and Health Sciences
Depositing User: Eddie Bradley
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2019 11:03
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 16:07
ORCID for Eddie Bradley: ORCID iD
ORCID for Lisa Board: ORCID iD

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