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J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Feb 23. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001866. [Epub ahead of print]

Movement patterns and muscle damage during simulated rugby sevens matches in National team players.

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1
1NAR - Nucleus of High Performance in Sport, São Paulo, Brazil; 2Department of Physical Education, State University of Londrina, Parana, Brazil; 3Brazilian Rugby Confederation, São Paulo, Brazil; 4Departament of Histology, State University of Londrina, Parana, Brazil.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to analyze the match performance (i.e., distance covered in different intensities), signs of muscle damage (assessed by means of creatine kinase [CK] activity and rate of force development [RFD]), and neuromuscular fatigue (using linear sprint and vertical jump performances) following three single-day simulated matches performed by rugby sevens players from the Brazilian National Team. Ten male rugby sevens players (25.2 ± 3.6 years; 88.7 ± 7.1 kg; 182.2 ± 6.3 cm) participated in this study. On the day prior to the matches, the athletes performed a 40-m sprint, a vertical jump assessment and a maximal isometric force test. In the morning of the match day, blood samples were collected to analyze the CK activity. Afterwards, three simulated rugby sevens' matches were performed with 2-h intermission periods. The match performance (encompassing total distance and distance covered in different velocity ranges and body loads [BL]) were obtained from global positioning system units. The statistical analysis was performed by using a mixed model approach and the effect sizes (ES) of the differences. The statistical significance level was set at P< 0.05. Players were capable of maintaining the match performance when comparing the first and last games. Large (ES >0.8) and significant (P< 0.05) reductions were demonstrated in the total distance and BL when comparing the 2 with the 1 halves. Decrements in the explosive force capacity (assessed by means of RFD) and the squat jump were noticed (ES varying from 0.55 to 1.14; P< 0.05). The CK activity increased after the matches (ES = 1.29; P< 0.05). The rugby sevens players were able to maintain the physical performance across three successive matches simulating the first day of a tournament. The augmented CK activity and the decreases in the squat jump and RFD suggest that increased levels of muscle damage were experienced on the day after the matches. Therefore, the technical staff are encouraged to implement recovery strategies and planned substitutions during multi-day tournaments in order to reduce the impact of accumulated fatigue and muscle damage on subsequent match performance. In addition, specific training strategies aimed at better simulating the match demands need to be implemented in the players' training routines.

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