Date of Award
Edith Cowan University
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Kinanthropometric assessment is an integral part of understanding an athlete’s physical profile and readiness for competition. This typically includes a variety of different assessments which serve to quantify body shape, proportion, and composition in a bid to understand human physiology. Common assessments include stature, body mass, limb ratios, body circumferences, body mass index, skinfold testing, body composition testing, and musculoskeletal morphological evaluations. Specifically, kinanthropometric evaluations have involved the characterisation of athletes according to sport, sex, competition level and playing position. While this has provided researchers and practitioners with greater insight into athletic phenotypes, more purposeful kinanthropometric assessments which focus on the health and performance of individuals are limited. In particular, the interplay between kinanthropometry, health, athletic performance and injury risk is not well established and may provide greater insight into the influence of kinanthropometric characteristics in athletes. Consequently, this doctoral research examined the relationships between kinanthropometric characteristics and match performance, injury and player availability in elite-level professional female and male Australian Football players. An introduction (Chapter 1), critical review of the literature (Chapter 2) and four sequential scientific investigations (Chapters 3-6) are presented.
The review of the literature identified essential knowledge gaps including i) the examination of body composition and musculoskeletal morphology in elite female Australian Football players, ii) the relationship between body composition, match performance, and match availability in Australian Football players, and iii) the relationship between on-field workload and changes in body composition. Injury incidence and prevalence within elite Australian Football has not evidentially decreased over the last several years, so adding further knowledge about kinanthropometry and its influence on performance and availability may provide greater clarity. These gaps in the literature helped inform the order and structure of the following research investigations.
The first experimental investigation (Chapter 3) involved the characterisation of body composition and musculoskeletal morphology in elite female and male Australian Football players. To our knowledge, it was the first research study to undertake a detailed examination of body composition and musculoskeletal morphology in elite female Australian Football players. With the elite female competition being in its infancy compared to the elite male competition, comparisons were made between competitions. It was identified that body composition and musculoskeletal morphological traits did not differ between experience levels in elite females, or intra-individually between kicking and support limbs. This was in stark contrast to the elite male players who had significant differences between kicking and support limbs and between players of varying experience levels. This may highlight the need for greater long-term physical development in female Australian Football players to adequately prepare them for competition.
The second investigation (Chapter 4) was an analysis of the relationship between pre-season body composition, and in-season match performance and player availability in elite female Australian Football players. It was discovered that no body composition traits could differentiate between higher and lower performing players, and could not differentiate between players according to match availability. It was concluded that due to the shorter season length and infancy of the competition, other factors such as technical skill level, may be more varied, and mask any potential influence of body composition. The results also highlight that the current ban of body composition testing in pre-draft AFLW player assessments may not be as detrimental as is currently perceived.
The third investigation (Chapter 5) was an examination of the relationship between end of pre-season (pre-competition) body composition and in-season player availability in elite male Australian footballers. In contrast to the second investigation (Chapter 4), whole body less head (WBLH) relative fat mass was significantly associated with in-season player availability in the elite male players. Additionally, players with higher relative fat mass were at three times higher risk of missing one, or two or more games to injury throughout a season, compared to players with lower relative fat mass. This highlights the importance of optimising body composition across pre-season, to reduce players’ risk of injury throughout the competition phase.
The fourth and final investigation (Chapter 6) was an analysis of the relationship between on-field workload and changes in body composition over pre-season. Individual and group changes in body composition were examined, highlighting the importance of examining changes on an individual level, as no changes was evident at the group level. Strong relationships were observed between on-field workload variables and change in WBLH fat mass over pre-season. Specifically, higher on-field workload was associated with reductions in fat mass. However, there were no associations between on-field workload and changes in WBLH lean soft-tissue mass. It was concluded that high on-field training workloads across pre-season are important if attempting to reduce WBLH fat mass.
McCaskie, C. J. (2023). An examination of kinanthropometric and physical injury risk factors in elite Australian football. Edith Cowan University. https://doi.org/10.25958/f6ja-g903