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Importance, Reliability, and Usefulness of Acceleration Measures in Team Sports

Delaney, Jace A.1,2; Cummins, Cloe J.3; Thornton, Heidi R.1,4; Duthie, Grant M.5

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: December 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 12 - p 3485–3493
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001849
Original Research

Delaney, JA, Cummins, CJ, Thornton, HR, and Duthie, GM. Importance, reliability and usefulness of acceleration measures in team sports. J Strength Cond Res 32(12): 3494–3502, 2018—The ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction efficiently is imperative to successful team sports performance. Traditional intensity-based thresholds for acceleration and deceleration may be inappropriate for time-series data and have been shown to exhibit poor reliability, suggesting other techniques may be preferable. This study assessed movement data from one professional rugby league team throughout 2 full seasons and 1 preseason period. Using both 5 and 10 Hz global positioning systems (GPS) units, a range of acceleration-based variables were evaluated for their interunit reliability, ability to discriminate between positions, and associations with perceived muscle soreness. The reliability of 5 Hz global positioning systems for measuring acceleration and deceleration ranged from good to poor (CV = 3.7–27.1%), with the exception of high-intensity deceleration efforts (CV = 11.1–11.8%), the 10 Hz units exhibited moderate-to-good interunit reliability (CV = 1.2–6.9%). Reliability of average metrics (average acceleration/deceleration, average acceleration, and average deceleration) ranged from good to moderate (CV = 1.2–6.5%). Substantial differences were detected between positions using time spent accelerating and decelerating for all magnitudes, but these differences were less clear when considering the count or distance above acceleration/deceleration thresholds. All average metrics detected substantial differences between positions. All measures were similarly related to perceived muscle soreness, with the exception of high-intensity acceleration and deceleration counts. This study has proposed that averaging the acceleration/deceleration demands over an activity may be a more appropriate method compared with threshold-based methods, because a greater reliability between units, while not sacrificing sensitivity to within-subject and between-subject changes.

1Newcastle Knights Rugby League Club, Mayfield, New South Wales, Australia;

2Institute of Sport Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Footscray Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia;

3School of Science and Technology, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia;

4La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Center, La Trobe University Bundoora Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; and

5School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, New South Wales, Australia

Address correspondence to Jace A. Delaney,

Copyright © 2018 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.