Influence of physical fitness parameters on relative age effect on amateur secondary school rugby union players
At the onset of puberty, boys experience great changes in growth and development. As such, boys who differ in age even by less than 12 months display significant differences in size, strength, power and skill levels and is known as Relative Age Effect (RAE). This study attempted to determine the prevalence of RAE in secondary school male rugby players in South Africa and to determine if RAE was related to physical fitness parameters. Two hundred and eighty-one (281) 13- to 16-year-old players from secondary schools ranked within the top 100 rugby playing schools in South Africa were sampled. Participants completed an RAE questionnaire and 11 rugby-specific physical fitness assessments. Results indicated that RAE was present in all groups. Only the under-15 age group demonstrated a significant (p≤0.05) relationship between stature (p=0.010), hand-grip strength (p=0.000) and upperbody muscle endurance (p=0.049 [Q1 vs. Q2], p=0.037 [Q2 vs. Q3]) and RAE. Physical and physiological parameters not responsible for RAE in these age groups and a multidimensional evaluation considering not only physical and physiological parameters, but also technical, tactical and psychological parameters should be utilised to determine the reasons for RAE in secondary school rugby in South Africa.
Keywords: Adolescent boys; Rugby; Fitness characteristics; Maturation; Relatively older athletes; Secondary school.