Applied Sport Science of Australian Football: A Systematic Review

  • Rich D. Johnston
  • Georgia M. Black
  • Peter W. Harrison
  • Nick B. Murray
  • Damien J. Austin
Systematic Review

Abstract

Background

In recent years, there has been a large expansion in literature pertaining to the game of Australian football (AF). Furthermore, there have been a number of rule changes that are likely to have changed the demands of the game. Based on these advances and changes, it seemed important to conduct a review assessing the scientific literature surrounding the sport.

Objective

The review evaluates the match demands of AF, the qualities required for success, and the impact training and competition have on adaptation, injury and fatigue.

Methods

A systematic search of PubMed, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science and Scopus for AF literature was conducted; studies investigating match demands, physical qualities, training practices and injury were included. Weighted means and standard deviations were calculated for match demands and physical and anthropometric profiles across playing standards.

Results

A total of 1830 articles were retrieved in the initial search, with 888 removed as duplicates, 626 removed for being non-relevant and a further 152 removed for being AF papers but not relevant to the review. As such, 164 AF papers were included in the review. Due to the intermittent high-intensity nature of match-play, players need a wide range of physical and technical qualities to excel, with speed, aerobic fitness, reactive agility and well-developed lean mass being central to success. Training for AF at the elite level is associated with high workloads, with players engaging in numerous training modalities; even altitude and heat training camps have been utilised by Australian Football League (AFL) teams to further augment fitness improvements. While high chronic workloads can be tolerated and are needed for improving physical qualities, careful planning and monitoring of internal and external workloads is required to minimise sharp spikes in load that are associated with injury.

Conclusions

There is a complex interaction between numerous contextual factors that influence the match demands that are discussed in this review. Whilst players must have the physical capacities to cope with the intense physical demands of AF matches, the successful execution of technical skills during match-play is central to success. To develop these skills and attributes, specific and carefully planned and monitored training must be performed over a number of years.

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Funding

No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Rich Johnston, Georgia Black, Peter Harrison, Nick Murray and Damien Austin declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rich D. Johnston
    • 1
  • Georgia M. Black
    • 1
  • Peter W. Harrison
    • 2
  • Nick B. Murray
    • 3
  • Damien J. Austin
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Exercise ScienceAustralian Catholic UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Human Movement StudiesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Brisbane Lions Australian Football ClubBrisbaneAustralia

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