The effects of a human obstacle and form of locomotion on the path selection of women's rugby players


INTRODUCTION: Obstacle avoidance behaviours are affected by either an individual's previous training or the environment. Athletes trained in fitting between spaces have more refined avoidance behaviours during training-specific situations. Recent research demonstrates that avoidance behaviours are more cautious with animate obstacles than inanimate. The current study investigated the effects of athletic training and location of an animate obstacle in conjunction with path selection. METHODS: Female rugby players were instrumented with IRED markers on the head and trunk to calculate Centre of Mass (COM) over time. Participants were instructed to: 1) walk; 2) walk with the ball; or 3) run with the ball along a 10m path toward a goal located along the midline. Three obstacles were placed at 5m, perpendicular to the pathway, consisting of either three vertical poles or two vertical poles and a confederate. The obstacles were separated by 80cm, creating two equal apertures on either side of the midline. The location of the confederate was either: 1) along midline; 2) 80cm to the left; 3) 80cm to the right; or 4) not present. RESULTS: The effects of a human obstacle and form of locomotion on path selection were examined by analyzing participants' COM. The results indicated that rugby players will choose paths furthest from the confederate (F(3,30)=31.p<0.001, η2=.757). CONCLUSION: Path selection appears to be driven by the location of a human obstacle rather than form of locomotion.