A comparison of speed profiles during training and competition in elite wheelchair rugby players

Purpose: To investigate the speed profiles of individual training modes in comparison to wheelchair rugby (WCR) competition across player classifications. Methods: Speed profiles of fifteen international WCR players were determined using a radio-frequency based indoor tracking system. Mean and peak speed (m∙s-1), work-rest ratios, the relative time spent (%)and the number of high speed activities performed were measured across training sessions (n = 464) and international competition (n = 34). Training was classified into one of four modes: conditioning (n = 71), skill-based (n = 133), game related (n = 151) and game-simulation drills (n = 109). Game-simulation drills were further categorised by the structured duration, which were 3-minute game-clock (n = 44), 8-minute game-clock (n = 39), and 10-minute running-clock (n = 26). Players were grouped by their International Wheelchair Rugby Federation classification as either low-point (≤ 1.5; n = 8) or high-point players (≥ 2.0; n = 7). Results: Conditioning drills were shown to exceed the demands of competition, irrespective of classification (P ≤ 0.005; effect size [ES] = 0.6-2.0). Skill-based and game related drills under-represented the speed profiles of competition (P ≤ 0.005; ES = 0.5-1.1). Mean speed and work-rest ratios were significantly lower during 3- and 8-minute game simulation drills in relation to competition (P ≤ 0.039; ES = 0.5-0.7). However, no significant differences were identified between the 10-minute running-clock and competition. Conclusions: Although game-simulation drills provided the closest representation of competition, the structured duration appeared important since the 10-minute running-clock increased training specificity. Coaches can therefore modify the desired training response by making subtle changes to the format of game-simulation drills.