Position-Specific Body Composition Values in Female Collegiate Rugby Union Athletes

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Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research


Rugby union is a full-contact, intermittent team sport. Anthropometric characteristics of rugby union athletes have been shown to influence suitability for a given position and affect performance. However, little anthropometric data exist in female rugby union athletes. Thus, the purpose of this study was to report position-specific anthropometric, body composition, and bone density values in female collegiate rugby union athletes and to identify between-position differences in these variables. This investigation was a cross-sectional study involving 101 female collegiate rugby union athletes, categorized as forwards and backs as well as by position (props, hookers, locks, flankers, number 8 forwards, halfback, fly-half, centers, wings, and fullbacks). Anthropometric characteristics of all athletes were measured, and body composition was assessed via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Outcome variables included age, height, body mass, BMI, body fat percentage, fat mass (FM), FM index, fat-free mass (FFM), FFM index, lean soft tissue, bone mineral content, bone mineral area, and bone mineral density. Anthropometric and body composition differences between forwards and backs were identified via independent t-tests and Mann-Whitney U tests, depending on normality of the variable. Between-position differences were assessed using one-way analysis of variances (ANOVAs) with Tukey post-hoc comparisons or Welch's ANOVA with Dunnett's T3 post-hoc test. Significant differences (p < 0.014) were identified between forwards and backs for every anthropometric variable, with forwards displaying greater height (167.7 ± 7.2 cm), body mass (81.5 ± 15.1 kg), and body fat percentage (28.2 ± 6.1%) relative to backs (164.5 ± 5.1 cm; 64.5 ± 7.7 kg; 21.9 ± 3.7%). Likewise, significant differences were identified for every anthropometric variable between several positions (p < 0.01). Significant (p < 0.05) interposition differences were identified within the subgroup of forwards, but not within the subgroup of backs. The present investigation is the first to report position-specific anthropometric and body composition data in female collegiate rugby union athletes. The results of this study can be used by rugby union coaches for recruiting and personnel decisions, to determine a player's suitability for a given position, and to further inform training and nutritional interventions in this population.



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