Sports like rugby and football have the added unique challenge of both giving and receiving tackles. This increase in physicality places higher physical demands on players. Tackling requires skill that is developed by quality coaching and consistent repetition. Strength is an important physical quality that contributes to tackling ability given the high level of forces an athlete must overcome to knock the opposing player off course or drive them backward. However, as the game carries on from minutes to hours the fitness level of the athletes may begin to play a more important role in maintaining tackling ability. As fatigue begins to set in, it is conceivable that technique would begin to deteriorate causing both a reduction in tackling efficiency and a possible increase in risk of injury as a consequence. Research investigating predictors of tackling performance under fatigue is limited.
A new study published ahead of print in the Public Library of Science sought to determine the effects of high intensity running induced fatigue on tackling ability in rugby players. In addition, the study aimed to evaluate relationships between various physical qualities and tackling ability under fatigue. A group of 11 semi-professional male rugby players were tested in the 40 m sprint, 4RM bench press and squat and weighted chin-up, upper body muscular endurance via dips and chin-ups to failure and fitness via a shuttle run test. A standardized tackling ability test was conducted before, during and after four bouts of high-intensity running exercise.
As one would expect, tackling ability progressively deteriorated throughout the high-intensity bouts of running with the worst tacking scores being recorded following the last bout (Large effect size). The results of the correlation analysis showed that athletes with higher levels of relative lower-body strength had better tackling ability when fatigued from running (r = 0.72). None of the other physical qualities significantly related with tackling ability. Contrary to what one would expect, fitness level did not appear to contribute to tackling performance under fatigue. This study highlights the important of developing lower body relative strength for maintaining tackling performance under conditions of fatigue.
Gabbett, T. J. (2016). Influence of Fatigue on Tackling Ability in Rugby League Players: Role of Muscular Strength, Endurance, and Aerobic Qualities. PloS one, 11(10), e0163161.