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A physiological comparison of two inter-county hurling teams

K. Collins, T. Reilly, D. MacLaren, & S. Reeves (2007) 'Annual conference of the british association of sport and exercise sciences', Journal of Sports Sciences, 25:3, 235 - 369

The game of hurling entails intermittent exercise, requiring players to compete in a challenging contest, comprising intense bouts of activity separated by short bouts of lower-intensity activity (Reilly, 2000: In Endurance in sport, edited by R. J. Shephard; P. O. Astrand. Oxford: Blackwell). The physiological demands of the game require players to be competent in several aspects of fitness, including aerobic and anaerobic power, muscle strength, flexibility, and agility. It is not known which of these factors distinguish top hurling teams from less successful ones. The main aim of this study was to investigate the anthropometric and performance characteristics of inter-county hurlers with a view to identifying measures associated with successful teams. Players from two teams, Wexford (n=18) and Dublin (n=23), were tested during the championship phase of the competitive season. The Wexford team was more successful, whereas Dublin did not qualify for the knock-out stage of the championship and was deemed to be unsuccessful. Percent body fat was estimated from skinfold thickness measures at four sites (Durnin & Womersley, 1974: British Journal of Nutrition, 21, 681- 688); grip strength of the right and left hands was assessed using a grip dynamometer (Takei, Japan); vertical counter-movement jump was measured using a Newtest contact mat (Newtest, Finland); broad jump was measured using a graded mat; maximal speed was measured over 20 m, timing gates being located at 5, 10, and 20 m (Newtest, Finland); aerobic power was estimated using the Multi-Stage Fitness Test (MSFT) (Ramsbottom et al., 1988: British Journal of Sports Medicine, 22, 141- 144); maximum heart rate was determined during the MSFT using a Polar Team System heart rate monitor (Polar Ltd, London, UK). Table I lists the characteristics of the hurlers. Significant differences between hurling teams were identified using unpaired t-tests.

Wexford hurlers were on average older and consequently more experienced than their less successful counterparts. This difference may reflect the current development of young talent within Dublin rather than age as a key component of success. Age alone is not a mitigating factor in playing at the elite level as is experience and its variance within teams. Nevertheless, a certain level of experience must be a factor in success. Except for the estimate for maximal oxygen consumption ( VO2max) and the 5-m sprint time, the anthropometric and performance characteristics did not differ significantly between teams. The successful hurlers attained a significantly higher V O2max than their less successful counterparts (Table I), suggesting that aerobic training is as important in this sport as anaerobic conditioning. In conclusion, this structured comparison suggests that success may be linked to experience of playing inter-county hurling and that aerobic power of hurlers is important at the elite level of play.

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