Team Sports Analysis – How far do you run ?
The use of GPS has transformed team sports analysis. It allows coaches to study each individuals movement around the field during a match and means training, conditioning and nutrition can be tailored to an individuals specific needs. Professional footballers have pretty much every step they take monitored by GPS and matches are analysed in minute detail. The England rugby team now have inbuilt GPS in their new kit and there has been extensive research in many other sports. So what can we learn from this data? What are the demands of modern team sports?
Football has been studied extensively. It is not uncommon for central midfielders, even juniors, to run over 13km in a game as they are involved in both attacking and defensive play. Strikers and defenders run less, averaging closer to 9 or 10 km a match but although their distance covered is less, more of the strikers movement is high speed sprinting. Elite goalkeepers interestingly can run up to 5km in a 90minute match, which given the fact they very rarely move out of their box is quite a feat.
As well as showing distance covered GPS data shows time spent standing, walking, jogging and sprinting and these measures show some interesting differences between positions on the pitch and individual players. A long time before his record transfer deal, Gareth Bale was already attracting attention with his ‘statistics’, showing both above average distance covered and impressive sprint statistics, as this 2010 article in the Telegraph shows. Generally professional football players do not tire during a match and second half statistics are very similar to the first half but some studies have shown an increase in sprint time when a side is loosing a match.
Hockey is the most closely comparable sport to football, with positions on the pitch and the tactics being very similar and so it is unsurprising that the average values are also similar, when you take into account the slightly shorter games. Elite midfielders regularly cover 10km/game and sometimes cover as much as 13km. In hockey there is less distinction between mids and forwards and forwards often also reach this distance. Defenders run significantly less in hockey, averaging around 6-7km per game and hockey goalkeepers only cover around 2km on average. This is not particularly surprising given that they are restricted by the clunky kit they wear. One surprising statistic in hockey is how much time in each match is spent standing, walking or slow jogging, some studies have time spent at low intensity as high as 97%.
Research into energy use / distance covered in hockey are complicated by the existence of rolling reserves, as players can be rested for 5 or 10 minutes in the middle of the games before returning to the pitch. GPS analysis of substitutions has shown that far from lowering distance & speed players record in a match, players generally return to the game refreshed and ‘play harder’ whilst on pitch and so cover higher distances, at greater speeds than if they were left on pitch. GPS studies on hockey have shown a decrease in movement in the second half of games particularly in juniors but there has also been some evidence that players may be eating and drinking inadequately before matches. One of the main differences between elite and amateur hockey players is the amount of sprinting during a game.
Rugby In terms of running, backs generally cover between 7km and 7.5km a match, while forwards cover between 5km and 7km, depending on their playing position (loose forwards covering the most distance). About 70% of the match is spent standing or walking, 25% is spent jogging, and 5% running at sprinting speeds. This means that for every second spent running, players will rest or move slowly for about five seconds. As with many team sports the real challenge lies in the number of times players have to change speeds, either accelerating or decelerating for short periods. The average ‘sprint’ is 20 metres long, and it happens 30 times a match, while fast jogging for 20m happens 90 times a match. Rugby players can shift speed approximately 750 times in an average match, or once every three to four seconds.
Rugby forwards spend more time doing very high intensity exercise, and less time walking or standing than backline players (65% of the match for forwards, compared to 75% for backs). This is explained by the forwards having more ‘static exertion’ periods – scrums, rucking and mauling. The result is that overall, even though backs do more running during a match; they actually do less total work than forwards. For example, in an 80-minute match, a loose forward can expect to burn about 2000 kCal, compared to 1 700 kCal for backline players.Unusually most research in rugby has found that players actually run further in the second half of a game, with more accelerations, short sprints, and more impacts in the second half. More time is also spent doing high-intensity running and less time walking, making the game more fluid.
Cricket. The different competition formats in cricket have all been studied using GPS. All have found that fast bowlers cover the greatest distance in cricket and do the greatest amount of sprinting. In a one day international a fast bowler can cover around 13.5km, which over the total game compares well with hockey or football but due to game length, the distance over the same time is considerably less. In one day matches spin bowlers cover around 11km, wicket keepers 9.5km and fielders 10.8km. Although the data is vastly effected by the amount of time spent at the crease, batsmen cover a total distance of around 2.6 km /hr.
Tennis. Although not a team sport, the GPS data from tennis is very interesting. The longest tennis match ever played, between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut at the 2010 Wimbledon championships, which lasted 11 hours 5 minutes, the two players covered around 9.6km each. So in the longest tennis match ever played, the players still did not cover the same amount of ground as a standard footballer would in an average game. However, this statistic can be very misleading, as the majority of movements are sprints and the constant lunging / changing direction is far more tiring than straight running. Its also worth noting that the distances covered by two competitors in a match can vary massively. In a 2007 US Open match, Novak Djokovic beat Radek Stepanek in an epic 5 set match in which Stepanek ran around 8km, while Djokovic only ran 5.6km. A player winning an easy game in 3 sets can run as little as 1.6km (1 mile).
For further reading:
Buchheit et al 2010. Match running performance and fitness in youth soccer. Int J Sport Med 31(11). 818-825
Buchheit et at 2011. Effects of age and spa treatment on match running performance over two consecutive games in highly trained young soccer players. J Sport Sci 29(6). 591-598
Osgnach et al 2010. Energy COsts and metabolic power in Elite Soccer : A new match analysis approach. Med Sci Sports Exerc 42(1).170-178
Macutkiewicz and Sunderland 2011 – The Use of GPS to evaluate activity profiles of elite women hockey players during match play. J Sports Sci 29. 967-973
Gabbett 2010. GPS Analysis of elite women hockey training and competition. J Strength Cond Res 24(5). 1321-1324
Jennings et al 2012. International field hockey players perform more high speed running than national level counterparts. J Strength Cond Res 26(4). 947-52
Cunniffe et al 2009. An évaluation of the physiological demands of elite Rugby Union match play. J Strength Cond Res 23(4).1195-203
Austin & Kelly 2013 Positional Differences in Professional Rugby league match play. J Strength Cond Res 27(1).14-19
Peterson et al 2011. Comparison of player movement patterns between one day and test cricket. J Strength Cond Res 25(5). 1368-73
Peterson et al 2010. Movement patterns in cricket vary by both position and game format. J Sports Sci 28(1).45-52
Vickery et al 2013. Accuracy and reliability of GPS devices for measurement of sports-specific movement patterns related to cricket,tennis and field-based team sports. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Oct 21. [Epub ahead of print]