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Physical and Decision-Making Demands of Australian Football Umpires During Competitive Matches

Elsworthy, Nathan1; Burke, Darren2; Scott, Brendan R.1; Stevens, Christopher J.1; Dascombe, Ben J.1,3

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: December 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 12 - p 3502–3507
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000567
Original Research

Abstract: Elsworthy, N, Burke, D, Scott, BR, Stevens, CJ, and Dascombe, BJ. Physical and decision-making demands of Australian football umpires during competitive matches. J Strength Cond Res 28(12): 3502–3507, 2014—This study examined the physical and decision-making requirements of elite Australian football (AF) umpires during match play. Twenty-nine field umpires were assessed across 20 AF League matches. Physical demands were monitored using global positioning system devices to record the total distance covered and high-speed running (HSR; >14.4 km·h−1) demands across each quarter. Decision-making performance was assessed through video by 3 elite umpire coaches who reviewed free-kick accuracy during each match. These data were further analyzed according to the position (mid-zone or end-zone) of the umpire when each decision was made. The average distance covered was 10,563 ± 608 m, of which 1,952 ± 494 m was HSR. Significant reductions in distance covered were observed during the third (p = 0.006) and fourth (p = 0.001) quarters, compared with the first. An average of 44 ± 8 free kicks awarded per match with a decision accuracy of 84 ± 6%; however, there were no significant differences (p > 0.05) in these measures across a match. Significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher physical (HSR; relative distance) and decision-making requirements were observed within the mid-zone. The current data quantify the physical and decision-making demands of AF umpiring and demonstrated that despite a high physical workload, free-kick accuracy is maintained across a match. This suggests that decision making may not be directly compromised by the intermittent running demands of AF umpires. Positional rotations between the mid-zone and end-zone position allow for the demands to be shared among all field umpires during a match.

1Applied Sports Science and Exercise Testing Laboratory, University of Newcastle, Ourimbah, Australia;

2School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Ourimbah, Australia; and

3Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia

Address correspondence to Nathan Elsworthy,

Copyright © 2014 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.