Preliminary evidence of transient fatigue and pacing during interchanges in rugby league

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013 Mar;8(2):157-64. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.8.2.157. Epub 2012 Aug 15.


Purpose: This study aimed to quantify changes in heart rate (HR) and movement speeds in interchanged and whole-match players during 35 elite rugby league performances.

Methods: Performances were separated into whole match, interchange bout 1, and interchange bout 2 and further subdivided into match quartiles. Mean percentages of peak HR (%HR(peak)) and total and high-intensity running (> 14 km/h) meters per minute (m/min) were recorded.

Results: For whole-match players, a decline in high-intensity m/min and %HR(peak) was observed between successive quartiles (P < .05). High-intensity m/min during interchange 1 also progressively declined, although initial m/min was higher than whole match (24.2 ± 7.9 m/min vs 18.3 ± 4.7 m/min, P = .018), and %HR(peak) did not change over match quartiles (P > .05). During interchange 2, there was a decline in high-intensity m/min from quartile 1 to quartile 3 (18 ± 4.1 vs 13.4 ± 5 m/min, P = .048) before increasing in quartile 4. Quartiles 1 and 2 also showed an increase in %HR(peak) (85.2 ± 6.5 vs 87.3 ± 4.2%, P = .022).

Conclusions: Replacement players adopted a high initial intensity in their first match quartile before a severe decline thereafter. However, in a second bout, lower exercise intensity at the outset enabled a higher physiological exertion for later periods. These findings inform interchange strategy and conditioning for coaches while also providing preliminary evidence of pacing in team sport.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Fatigue / physiopathology*
  • Football / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Young Adult