Three-compartment body composition changes in elite rugby league players during a super league season, measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Apr;25(4):1024-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cc21fb.


This study investigated the acute changes in body composition that occur over the course of a competitive season in elite rugby league players. Twenty elite senior players from an English Super League rugby league team underwent a total-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan at 3 phases of a competitive season: preseason (February), midseason (June), and postseason (September). Body mass (BM), fat mass (FM), lean mass, percentage body fat, and bone mineral content (BMC) were reported at each phase. Between the start and midpoint of the season, BM, lean mass, FM, and body fat percentage showed no significant change (p > 0.05); however, BMC was significantly increased (+0.71%; 30.70 ± 38.00 g; p < 0.05). Between the midseason and postseason phase, BM and BMC showed no significant change (p > 0.05); however, significant changes were observed in lean mass (-1.54%; 1.19 ± 1.43 kg), FM (+4.09%; 0.57 ± 1.10 kg), and body fat percentage (+4.98%; 0.78 ± 1.09%; p < 0.05). The significant changes in body composition seen over the latter stages of the competitive season may have implications for performance capabilities at this important stage of competition. An increase in FM and decrease in lean mass may have a negative effect on the power/BM ratio, and therefore may be a cause for concern for playing, coaching, and medical staff. Coaching and strength and conditioning staff should aim to prescribe appropriate training and nutritional practices with the aim of maintaining the players' optimal body composition until the conclusion of the competitive season, in order that performance capabilities are maximized over the entire competition period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Young Adult