For the longest time there was no way to really compare one sport to another. And while the new GPS technologies cannot tell you anything about the skill levels of one sport vs. another, they do allow you to objectively measure the physical and physiological demands. GPS technologies have been adopted far and wide in sport because they allow coaches and trainers to effectively manage player loading with real time statistics on distance, speeds, heart rates and even impact. Geelong in the AFL and Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL were two of the first teams to adopt the technologies. You can learn a lot more about the applications of sport GPS from GPSports, the Australian pioneers sport GPS technologies. There has been a boom in research in this area. However most of this research is simply profiling the demands of different sports. Given the number of conversations I have had with friends about which sport is the toughest, I on the other hand am more interested in comparing the different sports. The following research is from 3 different papers looking at professional level athletes in each of the sports.
- An evaluation of the physiological demands of elite rugby union using Global Positioning System tracking software
- Match analysis and the physiological demands of Australian football
- Performance Analysis of Elite Rugby League Match Play Using Global Positioning Systems
One interesting side note for the Rugby boys and girls, the Rugby Union article indicated that backs performed a significantly greater number of sprints compared to the forwards although I am sure that all the backs out there already knew that.
Elite AFL athletes cover the largest distance (by some way) at a similarly high average heart rate. You would have to say that at least by these numbers AFL athletes are the fittest of these 3 sports. Don’t agree? It’s probably because you are a Rugby player 🙂 Cameron West Cameron is the Director of Pro Training Programs