Are there many sports women who could run an average of nine kilometres during a 60 minute match? Are there many who could run that distance in addition to making a number of explosive sprints; some energy-draining changes in direction; and some powerful arm movements as the ball is flung at upwards of 60 kilometres an hour at the goal?
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 Argentina Hockey World League Final in Rosario!
The sports scientists at Loughborough University 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 sometimes 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.
These findings give an indication of just how physically demanding hockey is. One athlete leading leading the fitness revolution in hockey is 2014 FIH women's Player of the Year Ellen Hoog from the Netherlands.
She recently released a cookbook and exercise guide "In perfecte conditie" aimed at inspiring people to eat better and improve their fitness. You can check it out here.
To become an international hockey player involves hours of training, as USA hockey player Paige Selenski highlighted in a recent issue of ESPN magazine. She said: “It's not like I woke up one day and I had a really athletic body and ripped-up abs. I was lucky that I was naturally gifted with an athletic body, but I also put a lot of work into it. It just comes with running and all the things I do to stay in shape, I use my body every day for my job. We constantly put our bodies through pain.”
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 Argentina Hockey World League Final between 5-13 December in Rosario, Argentina. To buy tickets, click here.
Photo: Elmar Krop
Styling: Lisa Dymph Megens
For more information about FIH women's Player of the Year 2014 Ellen Hoog, visit: ellenhoog.com