Quantifying Contact Workloads in Professional Male Rugby Union by Implementing an Action Design Research Framework

Chittenden, Jessica
Spencer, Kirsten
Smith, Brett
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Master of Sport, Exercise and Health
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Auckland University of Technology

Introduction: Contact workload is an important component of the total workload in rugby union, but measurement difficulties mean it’s typically not included in rugby workload assessments.

Objective: To design a system that defines and quantifies contacts during a professional rugby union game.

Design: We implemented an action design research approach to create and evaluate this system.

Participants: Professional rugby union players from a Super Rugby team.

Methodology: Key contact metrics that describe contact workloads in rugby union were developed in HUDL Sportscode TM, (HUDL, V12, USA) these key contact metrics were then coded to quantify total contact workload intensity using the 10-point rate of perceived contact intensity scale (adapted from the 10-point Borg rate of perceived exertion scale) by player, position, and match. Comparisons between the contact intensities for each contact event defined by the research team were made against the actual player defined intensities for various contact events for nineteen players across six matches. The reliability of the coding methodology was examined by the researcher repeating the contact coding for a single match three times spread across four months. The consistency of the player contact intensity ratings was also examined by one player repeating their match analysis twice in the space of one week.

Conclusion: A novel time-motion methodology that identified and quantified the magnitudes of different types of contact events in professional male rugby union matches was developed and used to generate weekly match reports by the Super Rugby team. The research project found strong reliability yet, the difference between player contact intensities versus analyst contact intensities was largely significant across majority of results. This dissertation was a pilot study for the development and implementation of a novel contact intensity measurement system for rugby union. While our pilot data shows good efficacy and reliability, we recommend teams use the player defined contact intensities rather than those defined by the analyst. Finally, this novel tool became a highly valued resource for measuring match workloads alongside Global Positioning System (GPS) metrics, but we believe further research is required with a larger sample size and more trials to further assess its accuracy.

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