The Effect of ‘Ball in Hand’ Transfer on Sprint Speed and the Underlying Mechanisms of Sprint Technique in Rugby Union Players
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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The ability to repeatedly reach high sprint velocities is a vital quality in field sports; this proficiency particularly over short distances can determine sporting success in Rugby Union. In modern day Rugby Union all players to some degree must now possess the capability to repeatedly carry the ball whilst running at these high speeds. The purpose of this study was to accurately assess how ‘ball in hand transfer’ i.e. transferring the ball from one hand into two, impacted upon maximal sprint velocity and the underlying mechanisms of sprint technique among Rugby Union players. Altogether, six male rugby union players (height: 1.82 ± 0.05 m, body mass: 83.28 ± 81 kg, age: 20.6 ± 0.74 years) were recruited. Each player performed three 40m sprints under two separate conditions: without a ball in hand (control in the study), and with the ball in hand accompanied with the transfer of the ball at a set distance (21-24 m) of the run. The experimental design permitted the measurement of all kinematic variables in two separate analysis windows; this enabled both pre and post-ball-transfer movement patterns of each trial to be quantified. The present study found that in comparison to sprinting without the ball, sprints with ball in hand displayed a significant decrease (p<0.01) in the total angular displacement of the arm at the shoulder joint. A similar decrease in range of motion was also found between pre and post-ball transfer conditions. In this study it was clear that running without the ball in hand resulted in the greatest horizontal running velocities (7.76 ± 0.15 ms-1 & 8.27 ± 0.19 ms-1). In contrast, running with ball in hand caused a reduction in horizontal velocity (p>0.05). Post-ball-transfer results revealed an increase in running velocity; however whether this increase was directly caused by the transfer of the ball was undetermined. Ball carrying method and the transfer of the ball itself appeared to have minimal effect up players step length, despite showing significant differences (p<0.05) between conditions. Step frequency although showing no significant differences between the two ball conditions (p>0.05), proved to have a detrimental effect upon running velocity. Again, it was unclear as to whether the reduction in step frequency was due to the transfer of the ball. Overall the kinematic effects of ball in hand transfer remains unclear and undetermined. Further work in this area is required before any serious practical implications can be extracted and applied to the real world. Future work examining these effects within the acceleration phase of sprint running may find stronger relations and implications.
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