Rugby is a high intensity intermittent sport, involving a great deal of physical contact, played over a period of 80 minutes. Despite its duration, the key actions in rugby are of a high intensity, (scrumming, tackling, lineout jumping and lifting), all require a high degree of force and power production.
This combination of high intensity actions, an extended playing period, and physical contact mean that there is a high level of physical fatigue after a game of rugby.
These combinations also mean that fatigue following a rugby game involves all four physical fatigue types, namely:
- Physiological fatigue
Fatigue associated with the energy systems and associated metabolic by products.
- Neural fatigue
Fatigue associated with repeated high intensity exercises, and involving the neuromuscular elements of force production.
- Tissue damage
Damage to muscle tissues from physical contact and eccentric actions.
- Psychological fatigue
Mental fatigue associated with the stressful nature of the pressure to perform, team environments and repetitive training schedules.
Given this high level of fatigue, the need for recovery is clear. What is important is that actions are taken which can promote recovery, in other words a player needs to be proactive in enhancing recovery. Proactive recovery activities can significantly assist in the overall recovery process.
Additionally, after a rugby match there is a high level of psychological fatigue which is present in most competitive situations. Given this high level of fatigue, it is important to develop an appropriate post game routine designed to promote recovery in all of these fatigue areas.