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Raipur will welcome some of the fittest athletes in the world Photo: Kieran Govers

The fittest men on the planet?

November 11, 2015
Hockey players are some of the fittest athletes on the planet. Here's why...

For years there's been much debate about which which sport produces the fittest athletes? Which training regime is the toughest? Whose legs are the most muscled, abs the most ripped and arms the most toned?

Well it seems we have found our answer, thanks to FIH Innovation Partner Loughborough University – one of the top sports universities in the world. And the good news is - you can see them live in action at the Hero Hockey World League Final in Raipur!

The sports scientists at Loughborough studied hours of action from the 2014 World Cup and looked at two main qualities: namely the distances run during a match and the intensity maintained while running. They then compared these to other invasive team sports, in this case rugby 7s and football (soccer). 

The results will not surprise anyone who has watched or played a hockey match. On average, field players in hockey cover more metres and work at a higher intensity than both footballers or rugby players. 

In an average pattern of play, all three sports involve sprinting, jogging, walking and even periods where they stand still. The data from video action reveals that where a rugby 7s player will cover an average of 94 metres in a minute, a footballer covers an average of 125 metres in the same time frame, while a hockey player outruns them all with a huge 140 metres per minute.

Remember, this includes all actions - jogging back after a sprint, or running flat out to chase down opponents and set up attacks.

Perhaps a more pertinent figure when relating to the overall fitness of a player can be seen by the amount of the game that is played at a high intensity.

Where a football player spends just nine percent of the game working at an intensity that sees the heart-rate reaching 85-90 percent of its maximum, a hockey player can sustain that work rate for 30-40 percent of the game. A rugby player works at a high intensity for 20 percent of the game.

During those periods of high intensity activity, a hockey player will be running at speeds of above 19kmh. 

On average, a hockey player will run eight to nine kilometres during a match. When compared to footballers, who regularly reach more than 10 kilometres in a game, it is worth remembering that hockey is a 60 minute game where football is 90 minutes. This means hockey players reach almost the same distance with a third less time to achieve it.

And it is not just the experts from Loughborough who have reached these conclusions.

An eminent professor, Jeff Potteiger, a Dean within the Movement Science department at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, told the Washington Post: “First, we have to define what ‘fittest’ means… I think you have to use cardiovascular fitness, anaerobic power, muscular strength, muscle endurance and body composition…”

The professor then rattled off several sports: “Soccer players, they have quickness, agility, speed but I would be concerned about their power; boxers are fit, but if you put them in another sport, I don’t know how well they would do… Now I forgot hockey players, they’re flexible, powerful, great body composition, good cardiovascular fitness. Yeah, I’d probably put them near the top.”

While science is great at providing the empirical evidence we need to prove that hockey players are right up there as some of the fittest people on the planet, well, we only have to use our own powers of observation to see that hockey players look just great.

See some of the fittest athletes in the world live in action at the Hero Hockey World League between November 27 and December 6 in Raipur, India. To buy tickets, click here.

Photo: Kieran Govers

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