“Each sport has different demands and pressures,” said Dr Tim Gabbett, a sport scientist in the School of Human Movement Studies
“For example, in rugby league there are multiple sources of pressure as players multi-task to count numbers, make decisions, and assess their next move – all under high levels of physical stress,” he said.
Dr Gabbett’s research is considered unique as it focuses on three key interrelated areas of sport, and has relevance to grassroots and elite sporting competition.
The research looks at understanding the demands of professional Rugby League, although the findings can be applied to any sport.
“Many previous researchers focus on one area, but limiting the focus in this way doesn’t allow coaches to understand the connections between the different fields,” Dr Gabbett said.
“The strength of this work is that it looks at the physical and skill demands of Rugby League, and also demonstrates some practical ways to reduce injuries.”
Once a coach understands the demands of a sport, they can then train players to meet those specific demands.
“In training, the types of activities performed need to reflect the pressures that players are likely to face in competition,” Dr Gabbett said.
“If a coach understands these demands, they will be better able to provide players with the skills and physical qualities that transfer into a pressured environment.”
Following on from these key areas, Dr Gabbett has also researched injury prevention for team sports.
“Coaches need their best players fit and available each week, but they don’t want them to break down because they are over worked,” he said.
Dr Gabbett’s research found that players who were exposed to physically hard, but well-controlled training loads prepared their bodies for the physical demands of the sport, and also had a lower risk of injury.
Dr Gabbett has put his findings to practical use and is working closely with the Melbourne Storm, North Queensland Cowboys, and the West Coast Eagles.