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Influence of contextual factors, technical performance and movement demands on the subjective task load associated with professional rugby league match-play

Mullen, Tom and Twist, Craig and Dobbin, Nicholas and Daniels, Matt and Highton, Jamie (2020) Influence of contextual factors, technical performance and movement demands on the subjective task load associated with professional rugby league match-play. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. ISSN 1555-0265 (In Press)

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Abstract

Purpose: The aim of the study was to identify the association between several contextual match factors, technical performance and external movement demands on the subjective task load of elite rugby league players. Methods: Individual subjective task load, quantified using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Task Load Index (NASA-TLX), was collected from 29 professional rugby league players from one club competing in the European Super League throughout the 2017 season. The sample consisted of 26 matches, culminating in 441 individual data points. Linear mixed-modelling was adopted to analyze the data for relationships and revealed that various combinations of contextual factors, technical performance and movement demands were associated with subjective task load. Results: Greater number of tackles (effect size correlation ± 90% CI; η2= 0.18 ±0.11), errors (η2= 0.15 ±0.08) decelerations (η2= 0.12 ±0.08), increased sprint distance (η2= 0.13 ±0.08), losing matches (η2= 0.36 ±0.08) and increased perception of effort (η2= 0.27 ±0.08) led to most likely – very likely increases in subjective total task load. The independent variables included in the final model for subjective mental demand (match outcome, time played and number of accelerations) were unclear, excluding a likely small correlation with the number of technical errors (η2= 0.10 ±0.08). Conclusions: These data provide a greater understanding of the subjective task load and their association with several contextual factors, technical performance and external movement demands during rugby league competition. Practitioners could use this detailed quantification of internal loads to inform the prescription of recovery sessions and current training practices.

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