Neuromuscular, Biochemical, Endocrine and Physiological Responses of Elite Rugby League Players to Competitive Match-Play

  • Christopher P McLellan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In 2009, the National Rugby League (NRL) was the most watched sport on Australian television (TV) (403). A review of TV ratings at the completion of the 2009 NRL season revealed that 60 of the top 100 rating subscription TV programs were NRL matches (403), exceeding TV ratings of all other football codes in Australia. In particular, NRL matches out-rated Australian Football League (AFL) matches on both free to air and subscription TV (403). The NRL is experiencing unprecedented popularity with improved TV ratings for Friday night and Sunday afternoon matches and an average crowd attendance of 16,051, an increase of 2.93 % on 2008 figures. In 2009, the Telstra premiership recorded the highest regular season attendance in the history of Rugby League with 3,081,839 people attending the 26 rounds of regular season matches. NRL matches on subscription TV reached more than 3.6 million viewers in 2009, while on average, each regular season round in the NRL reached more than 2.7 million viewers with more than 220,000 listeners tuning into Rugby League on radio every weekend throughout the season (403). To assist the NRL to remain the centre piece in the fee to air and subscription TV schedule, there is a considerable need for a substantial and ongoing commitment to excellence by coaches, sports scientists and strength and conditioning practitioners to advance the knowledge base regarding match preparation, match-play performance and best practice methodologies during the post-match recovery period. Despite the professional status of the NRL as an international sport with a global viewing audience, there remains a lack of research in the key areas of player response to the demands of match play and the pattern of neuromuscular, endocrine and biochemical recovery in elite Rugby League in comparison to other football codes such as AFL, Rugby Union and Soccer. With the exception of Dr Dan Baker from the Brisbane Broncos, who has set the bench mark for applied strength and power research in professional Rugby League for over 10 years, the majority of research has consisted of retrospective reporting of player anthropometric data, injury rates and comparisons of junior, amateur, and semi-professional player performance characteristics. The motivation for the present body of work arose from a conversation with Olympic weightlifting coach, Mr Lyn Jones at a Sports Power Coaching accreditation course attended by the author in Brisbane in 2005. During the course of one of many conversations regarding athlete recovery and preparation, Lyn pondered the age-old question of how can a coach determine when an athlete has recovered sufficiently from a workout or competitive performance to enable that athlete to return to training in preparation for subsequent performance? The lack of information pertaining to the physiological demands of Rugby League match-play under current defensive rules, interchange limitations and the introduction of two on-field referees is evident in any systematic review of the literature. Furthermore a review of the literature revealed no study had examined the neuromuscular, endocrine or biochemical response of elite Rugby League players to competitive match-play. No study has investigated the time course associated with a return to pre-match neuromuscular, endocrine or biochemical measures during the post-match recovery period following NRL match-play. The present body of work was therefore undertaken to establish the euromuscular, endocrine, biochemical and physiological physiological demands of match-play in the NRL and to determine the anabolic:catabolic endocrine behaviour, neuromuscular fatigue and muscle damage immediately post match and for a period of up to 5 days post-match. By determining the time course associated with a return to pre-match hormonal homeostasis and neuromuscular function, the effectiveness of recovery strategies could be established. An increased knowledge base in relation to the neuromuscular, endocrine, biochemical and physiological pattern of response following elite Rugby League match play may enable a more accurate identification of when players could return to training without interfering with the short term post-match recovery period to be recognised, and preparation for subsequent performance optimised.
Date of Award12 Feb 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDale Lovell (Supervisor)

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