Professional male rugby union players’ perceived psychological recovery and physical regeneration during the off-season

Stephen D. Mellalieu, Paul Sellars, Rachel Arnold, Sean Williams, Mickael Campo, Dierdre Lyons

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Abstract

Objectives: We explored male professional rugby union players’ experiences and perceptions of their mental and physical health and well-being across the northern hemisphere off-season.
Methods: 34 professional male rugby union players participated in individual semi-structured interviews (mean (SD) age=27.5 (4.3) years). Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.
Results: The off-season was characterised by three phases players undergo to preserve their mental and physical health and well-being to recover from the previous season and regenerate in preparation for the upcoming season. These included decompression from previous season, cognitive detachment from the rugby environment, and preparation for pre-season. Successful progression through all three phases was influenced by several variables (work and life demands, contextual factors, experience level). Recovery and regeneration strategies focused on physical distancing/getting away from the rugby environment to cognitively detach. Injured players appear an at-risk sub-group for threats to mental well-being (isolation, anxiety, reduced sense of achievement) as a result of reduced or minimal time away from the workplace due to treatment obligations. Younger professionals are a sub-group at risk of overtraining/injury due to inadequate rest, especially as this group are least likely to seek support/guidance.
Conclusions: This study is the first investigation into male professional rugby union players’ experiences and perceptions of their mental and physical health and well-being across the off-season period. It highlights the distinct phases players undertake to mentally recover and regenerate and the need to consider education and support for potential at risk sub-groups.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001361
JournalBMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine
Volume9
Issue number1
Early online date24 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding: This study has been funded by World Rugby (ID:G-1806-00175).

Data availability statement: Data are available upon reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author, Stephen Mellalieu, via email: [email protected]. The data are not publicly available due to the qualitative nature and despite all transcribed data being kept in a deidentified form (i.e., participant coding), the data still contain information that could compromise the privacy of research participants and/or the support staff

Data Availability Statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.


https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2022-001361

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