Time-Motion analysis and physiological profile of elite New Zealand touch players during competition
Background: Currently, New Zealand elite Touch players are ranked in the top two countries around the world in all three playing grades (Men's, Women's and Mixed). As of January 2010, New Zealand holds the mantle of World Champions in the Mixed (Open, Masters, Under 21) and Men's (Under 21 and Under 18) grades. Determined to obtain this same achievement at future Elite Open World Cup competitions, relevant and specific training programmes need to be implemented. Time-Motion Analysis (TMA) can provide this information by means of qualitative and quantitative measurements of individual performance during a game. There are a limited number studies on the physical demands of elite Touch players during competition and the majority have focused on male and female Touch players who play in a Men's only or Women's only grade. To date, there have been no investigations on the physical and technical demands of New Zealand elite Touch players, or elite Touch players who specialise in playing in a Mixed grade. Purpose: The aim of the present study was to investigate the physical and technical demands of elite Touch players and determine if any differences exist across the three playing grades and various Touch player groups. Methods: Twenty male (mean ± SD: age 23.4 ± 3.8 years; height 174.9 ± 6.1 cm; body mass 75.3 ± 8.1 kg) and 18 female (mean ± SD: age 23.9 ± 3.7 years; height 165.9 ± 5.0 cm; body mass 63.9 ± 5.6 kg) elite Touch players participated in this study. Physical and technical game measures, included video footage (playing time, sport specific skill analysis), and GPS data (Time-Motion Analysis) information were obtained during one competition game at the Touch New Zealand (TNZ) Open National Tournament. Blood lactate concentrations were also taken before and after each game, using a portable finger-stick blood lactate concentration meter. Physiological profiles of each Touch player were conducted within two weeks of competing at the TNZ Open National Tournament and included assessment of speed (5-, 10-, 20-, 30-m sprint times) and estimated maximal aerobic power (20 m Multi-stage shuttle run test). Results: For each playing grade the overall mean time period spent 'on and off the field ratios' during a game was, male only ~1:1.10, male mixed ~1:1.75, female only ~1:1.40 and female mixed ~1:1.20. Across all grades male mixed players spent significantly (p < 0.05) more time sprinting than female only (~50%) Touch players. Maximum speed achieved during a game ranged from ~22 – 25 km.hr-1, with male only players attaining significantly higher maximum speed than female mixed (~12%) Touch players. Across the three groups, total distance travelled ranged between ~2.8 – 3.1 km, average speed on the field ~9.0 – 10.0 km.hr-1, and post game blood lactate concentrations between ~4 – 7.5 mmol.L-1. However, no significant between-group differences were found for these variables. Male only and male mixed players performed significantly more successful attacking skills during a game, than female mixed (~47%, both) Touch players. Male Touch players who play in a Men's only grade were significantly taller, heavier, faster and achieved greater predicted VO2max than female Touch players who play in Women's only grade (~7%, ~14%, ~7 – 12%, and ~13%, respectively). Male mixed Touch players were significant taller, heavier and faster than female Touch players who play in a Women's only grade (~5%, ~15%, and ~5 – 9%, respectively) and female mixed Touch players (~5%, ~18%, and ~5 – 9%, respectively). No significant differences (p > 0.05) in age, height, body mass, sprint speed and predicted V02max were found between middle, link and utility playing positions. However, when comparing between gender groups across the three playing positions, male utility Touch players were significantly, heavier and faster than all female positional groups (~16 – 18% and ~7 – 8%, respectively). Conclusion: It is obvious from the results of the present study that there are several physical and technical game measurement differences and similarities across the three playing grades and with various Touch player positional groups during competition. The results also show that male elite Touch players who play in a Men's only grade are different to female Touch players (on many anthropometric and performance variables). Such data is useful as it provided some indication of the different requirements of the different elite Touch players and grades. These results provide some initial normative anthropometric and physiological data for elite New Zealand Touch players. The project also provides some initial physical and technical game measurement data for elite New Zealand Touch players which can be used as benchmarks for coaches and support staff when planning their athletes training programmes and by sports scientists for further research.