Frontiers in Sports and Active Living
School of Medical and Health Sciences
This study examined the relationship between pre-season body composition, in-season match performance, and match availability in female players competing in the Australian Football League Women's (AFLW) competition. With the outlawing of body composition assessments as part of pre-draft player evaluations in the AFLW, this study seeks to examine whether this is justified. Twenty-two (n = 22) players had body composition assessed with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry at the beginning of the 2021 AFLW pre-season (whole-body and regional fat mass and lean soft-tissue mass [LSTM]). In-season match availability and match performance data (Coaches Score [CS], Champion Data Player Rank, average disposals, disposal and kicking efficiency) were collected throughout the 2021 competition. Pearson correlations were performed to assess if associations existed between body composition and in-season match performance and availability. A median split was performed to divide players into higher and lower performing groups for match performance variables. Two-sample independent t-tests were then used to assess differences between groups. No body composition characteristics could differentiate between in-season match availability groups (100 % availability vs. < 100 % availability) or higher and lower performing groups for all match performance variables. Total leg LSTM asymmetry shared a moderate negative association with CS. Body composition may not be important for determining in-season match availability and performance in female AFLW players. Thus, the repercussions following the removal of pre-draft body composition assessments across the league may not be as significant as is currently perceived. Other physiological, biomechanical, or performance qualities are more variable and may mask the effect of body composition in these players. AFLW practitioners should prioritize the development of other important attributes, such as aerobic fitness, muscular strength and power, and technical skill.
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