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J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Sep;55(9):878-91. Epub 2014 Jun 19.

Physical demands in elite team handball: comparisons between male and female players.

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Department of Public Health, Section of Sport Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark -



The aim of the present study was to examine potential differences in the physical demands imposed on male vs. female adult elite team handball players during match-play.


Male and female elite team handball players were monitored over a six and five season time span, respectively. Each player was evaluated during match-play by use of video recording and subsequent computerized locomotive and technical match analysis. Furthermore, physiological measurements during match-play, physical testing and anthropometric measurements were performed.


Female players (FP, N.=82) covered a longer mean total distance per match (4693±333 m, group means±SD) compared to male players (MP, N.=83, 3945±538 m) when playing full time (P<0.01). FP exercised at a greater relative workload (79.4% of VO2-max) than MP (70.9% of VO2-max, P<0.05), but performed less high-intense running per match (2.5% of total distance covered) than MP (7.9%, P<0.01). FP also spent less time standing still (10.8% of total effective playing time) compared to MP (36.9%, P<0.001) and showed fewer activity changes (663.8±99.7) compared to MP (1482.4±312.6, P<0.001). MP received more tackles in total in offence (34.5±21.3) and performed more tackles in total in defence (29.9±12.3) compared to FP (14.6±9.2, 20.7±9.7, P<0.05). Furthermore, MP performed more high-intense technical playing actions per match (36.9±13.1) than FP (28.3±11.0, P<0.05). The mean body height and body mass differed between MP (189.6±5.8 cm, 91.7±7.5 kg) and FP (175.4±6.1 cm, 69.5±6.5 kg, P<0.001).


Substantial gender-specific differences in the physical demands in elite team handball were observed, with MP performing more high-intense, strength-related playing actions and high-intensity running than FP. Conversely, FP covered a greater total distance and demonstrated a higher relative workload than MP. The physical training of male and female elite team handball players should be designed to reflect these contrasting needs.

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