Altitude research will inform rugby tactics

Altitude research will inform rugby tactics

Fatigue associated with altitude could be disadvantaging rugby players, says a CPIT graduate whose research into the effect of altitude on rugby team sports performance will provide important insights for coaches on how to tactically prepare teams to play at high altitudes.

Tina George, a graduate of CPIT's Bachelor of Applied Science in Sport and Science, investigated "The Effect of Altitude and Travel on Super Rugby Performance" as her final year research project. 

George says there had been "minimal research" undertaken on the effect of altitude on team sports performance in the past and no research to her knowledge on changes in actual rugby performance indicators at altitude. 

The most important finding of her study was that that when sea level teams played at altitude they made substantially fewer gain lines in the second half.  In rugby union, gain line refers to the success or failure of the attacking team to break through the defensive line of their opposition, which is a key factor in scoring tries and determining the outcome of a rugby game.

This may have been a result of altitude induced fatigue.

"The decreased ability to break the defensive line could reduce the likelihood of scoring points and winning a game," George says. "As a result, coaches and trainers need to monitor players for fatigue in the later stages of games played at altitude and be prepared to make tactical substitutions especially in positions with high workloads." 

Teams playing overseas were also more likely to miss tackles and not reach the gain line as frequently in the first half of a game compared with matches at home.  George says this could be combatted with travelling teams making an effort to "withstand the initial surge of a home team" and making an increased effort to accumulate points before the latter stages of game, when the home team is likely to score more points.

The research was undertaken was in conjunction with Crusaders Analyst Jamie Hamilton, CPIT manager of Applied Science Peter Olsen and Dr Mike Hamlin from Lincoln University.  The resulting article is being submitted for publication in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning. 

Since graduating George has worked as a sports massage therapist at Garden City Health. "I love the hands on work with the general public and sports people as well as working in a multidisciplinary clinic alongside physiotherapists and chiropractors." She also works at University of Canterbury Sport as a sports performance assistant. Her role is to assist with support in performance analysis, lab testing and some involvement with social sport coordination.

George is now preparing to complete her masters at Auckland University of Technology in Sport Science. "I am doing this for personal growth and to gain more knowledge about the body and management and research", she says. "I feel the more I understand about the human body in regards to exercise the more I can help people."


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