Measuring the physical work and resultant acute psychobiological responses of basketball can help to better understand and inform physical preparation models and improve overall athlete health and performance. Recent advancements in training load monitoring solutions have coincided with increases in the literature describing the physical demands of basketball, but there are currently no reviews that summarize all the available basketball research. Additionally, a thorough appraisal of the load monitoring methodologies and measures used in basketball is lacking in the current literature. This type of critical analysis would allow for consistent comparison between studies to better understand physical demands across the sport.
The objective of this systematic review was to assess and critically evaluate the methods and technologies used for monitoring physical demands in competitive basketball athletes. We used the term ‘training load’ to encompass the physical demands of both training and game activities, with the latter assumed to provide a training stimulus as well. This review aimed to critique methodological inconsistencies, establish operational definitions specific to the sport, and make recommendations for basketball training load monitoring practice and reporting within the literature.
A systematic review of the literature was performed using EBSCO, PubMed, SCOPUS, and Web of Science to identify studies through March 2020. Electronic databases were searched using terms related to basketball and training load. Records were included if they used a competitive basketball population and incorporated a measure of training load. This systematic review was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO Registration # CRD42019123603), and approved under the National Basketball Association (NBA) Health Related Research Policy.
Electronic and manual searches identified 122 papers that met the inclusion criteria. These studies reported the physical demands of basketball during training (n = 56), competition (n = 36), and both training and competition (n = 30). Physical demands were quantified with a measure of internal training load (n = 52), external training load (n = 29), or both internal and external measures (n = 41). These studies examined males (n = 76), females (n = 34), both male and female (n = 9), and a combination of youth (i.e. under 18 years, n = 37), adults (i.e. 18 years or older, n = 77), and both adults and youth (n = 4). Inconsistencies related to the reporting of competition level, methodology for recording duration, participant inclusion criteria, and validity of measurement systems were identified as key factors relating to the reporting of physical demands in basketball and summarized for each study.
This review comprehensively evaluated the current body of literature related to training load monitoring in basketball. Within this literature, there is a clear lack of alignment in applied practices and methodological framework, and with only small data sets and short study periods available at this time, it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions about the true physical demands of basketball. A detailed understanding of modern technologies in basketball is also lacking, and we provide specific guidelines for defining and applying duration measurement methodologies, vetting the validity and reliability of measurement tools, and classifying competition level in basketball to address some of the identified knowledge gaps. Creating alignment in best-practice basketball research methodology, terminology and reporting may lead to a more robust understanding of the physical demands associated with the sport, thereby allowing for exploration of other research areas (e.g. injury, performance), and improved understanding and decision making in applying these methods directly with basketball athletes.