Researchers from the Centre for Sleep Science at The University of Western Australia are using novel technology to help the Western Force rugby union team reduce the effects of long-distance travel and optimise their performance in the upcoming Super Rugby competition.
The Western Force are the second most travelled sports team in the world (after the NFL’s Oakland Raiders) and fly 68,000 kilometres during the year which presents huge challenges for recovery.
This year the team will fly more than 16 hours across multiple time zones to compete against the Jaguares in Argentina, creating a unique research opportunity to examine the impacts of ultra-long range air travel and jet lag on game performance.
UWA researchers are using the latest in wrist activity technology, called Readiband™, to accurately track rugby players’ sleep and activity data. The players will wear the monitors for the entirety of the Super Rugby season, allowing the researchers to examine the relationships between sleep, cognition and game performance.
Elite sporting teams regularly collect performance data, however this technology is the first of its kind to predict the effects of sleep and other factors on players’ future performance. The monitors are already used by championship teams in the US including the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL and the Chicago Cubs in Major League Baseball.
PhD student Ian Dunican from UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science, said the Western Force players travelled the most of all the teams in the Super Rugby competition, and because of this, strategies to minimise jet lag and optimise player recovery were crucial.
“Sleep on the nights leading into a Super Rugby game combined with the change in time zones and travel can all affect a player’s cognitive effectiveness and decision making during a game,” Mr Dunican said.
“This technology helps us to accurately predict how players will perform against these factors to potentially adjust the teams’ pre-game strategy, such as when to travel and when to train.”
Adam Coleman, Western Force and Wallabies lock, said the team had a big season ahead and the effects of long-distance travel and fatigue had a huge impact on sporting performance.
“Making sure we get the right amount of sleep for our recovery in between games is crucial,” he said.
The results of the study will be available later in the season and are expected to actively demonstrate the importance of managing long-distance air travel to reduce its effects on fatigue. Mr Dunican will work with the Western Force throughout the season to collect data and provide advice to players and staff.
Ian Dunican (UWA School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology) (+61 4) 09 680 867
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229/ (+61 4) 32 637 716
UWA Sport Marketing Communications and Events Officer