Seasonal change in bone, muscle and fat in professional rugby league players and its relationship to injury: a cohort study
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Objectives: To examine the anthropometric characteristics of an Australian National Rugby League team and identify the relationship to type and incidence of injuries sustained during a professional season. It was hypothesised that body composition would not change discernibly across a season and that injury would be negatively related to preseason bone and muscle mass. Design: A repeated measure, prospective, observational, cohort study. Setting: Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia. Participants: 37 professional male Australian National Rugby League players, 24.3 (3.8) years of age were recruited for preseason 1 testing, of whom 25 were retested preseason 2. Primary and secondary outcome measures: Primary outcome measures included biometrics; body composition (bone, muscle and fat mass; dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry; XR800, Norland Medical Systems, Inc); bone geometry and strength (peripheral quantitative CT; XCT 3000, Stratec); calcaneal broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA; QUS-2, Quidel); diet and physical activity history. Secondary outcome measures included player injuries across a single playing season. Results: Lean mass decreased progressively throughout the season ( pre=81.45(7.76) kg; post=79.89(6.72) kg; p=0.05), while whole body (WB) bone mineral density (BMD) increased until midseason ( pre=1.235(0.087) g/cm2; mid=1.296(0.093) g/cm2; p=0.001) then decreased thereafter (post=1.256 (0.100); p=0.001). Start-of-season WB BMD, fat and lean mass, weight and tibial mass measured at the 38% site predicted bone injury incidence, but no other relationship was observed between body composition and injury. Conclusions: Significant anthropometric changes were observed in players across a professional rugby league season, including an overall loss of muscle and an initial increase, followed by a decrease in bone mass. Strong relationships between anthropometry and incidence of injury were not observed. Long-term tracking of large rugby league cohorts is indicated to obtain more injury data in order to examine anthropometric relationships with greater statistical power.
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