Effects of consecutive domestic and international tournaments on heart rate variability in an elite rugby sevens team

Andrew Flatt, Dan Howells, Sean Williams

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Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate heart rate variability and athlete self-report measures of recovery status (ASRM) in response to consecutive domestic and international tournaments among an elite rugby sevens team. Design: Retrospective. Methods: Olympic-level rugby sevens players (n = 10) recorded post-waking natural logarithm of the root mean square of successive differences (LnRMSSD) and ASRM (sleep quality, energy, soreness, recovery and mood) throughout a 1-week baseline period and daily thereafter throughout a domestic and subsequent international tournament, separated by five days. Linear mixed models and Hedge's effect sizes ± 95% confidence interval (ES ± 95% CI) were used to evaluate variation in LnRMSSD and ASRM relative to baseline. Results: Decrements in various ASRM were observed in response to both tournaments (ES = −0.80 ± 0.91 to −1.73 ± 1.03, p < 0.05) and international travel (ES = −1.03 ± 0.93 to −1.70 ± 1.02, p < 0.05) whereas decrements in LnRMSSD were only observed in response to the international tournament (ES = −0.89 ± 0.92 to −1.21 ± 0.96, p = 0.02–0.07). No clear differences in internal or external match-load parameters were observed between tournaments (ES = −0.35 ± 0.88 to 0.13 ± 0.88, p > 0.05). Conclusions: Greater decrements in cardiac-autonomic activity were observed in response to an international tournament relative to a domestic tournament, despite no difference in match-physical demands. Thus, factors separate from competition alone may impact players’ cardiac-autonomic response to an international tournament.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616-621
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number5
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Autonomic
  • Cardiac-parasympathetic
  • Recovery
  • Sports science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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