Effect of National-Level Field Hockey on Physical Fitness and Body Composition Parameters In Turkish Females

Submitted by Yılmaz Ucan1, Ph.D*

1* Abant Izzet Baysal University, School of Physical Education and Sports

Yılmaz Ucan, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Coaching Science at the Abant Izzet Baysal University, Turkey. 


To be successful in field sports such as soccer, rugby, football and hockey, players need to be enhancing some bio-motor abilities like endurance, strength, speed and flexibility. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of national-level field hockey on physical fitness and body-composition parameters in Turkish females. Twenty-four female subjects (12 non-sporting healthy controls aged 19 to 22, 12 elite, national level field hockey players aged 18 to 21) participated in this study. Body composition, 30-meter sprint, leg power, handgrip strength, posture balance were measured. At the end of measurements, there was a significant differences in body-fat percentage (p < 0.014), fat mass (p < 0.044), speed (p < 0.000), leg power (p < 0.006), grip strength (p < 0.022), but no significant differences in fat-free mass (p > 0.442) and fall index (p > 0.258) were observed between hockey players and non-sporting controls. Results suggest that regular participation to hockey training programs improves body composition, speed, and lower- and upper-extremity strength, with no effect on fat-free mass and posture balance in young females. Additional studies may identify effects of field hockey training on physical fitness and body composition in males and different age groups.

Key words: Field hockey, fat mass, speed, strength, posture balance


Field hockey is a team sport that offers a total body workout that includes both aerobic and anaerobic components (5, 6). The development of motor skills, speed, body balance, stamina, and strength are possible outcomes of effective instruction in the sport of field hockey (10, 23, 30). The natural tempo of hockey is fast and involves interval aerobic and anaerobic activities (13, 31). All the major muscle groups are activated during the game (24). Aerobic exercises stimulate both the respiratory frequency and the heartbeat (19, 20). By so, calorie expenditure increases and as a result of this, body-fat mass decreases and the health of both the respiratory and circulatory systems improve (2). By the way, these kinds of exercises result in protecting healthy weight and improving body resistance (18, 20). Hockey sport includes cardiovascular exercises. During the conditions caused by the nature of the game, sudden stops and running again provides important cardio benefits to the person (33, 37). Hockey includes strength gaining exercises, too, and develops the major muscle groups especially leg (hamstring, quadriceps, calf and hip muscles), arm (triceps, forearm) and shoulder (deltoid) muscles and helps athletic performance by improving muscle endurance (24). Strength training increases muscle mass and fortifies fibrous tissue and bone tissue, and, by doing so, reduces injury risk (19, 32, 34, 38). All these contribute to forming a healthier, more powerful and more injury-resisting body. Hockey helps improve speed, power, flexibility and fast-reacting qualities of the players (1, 21). Hockey players must react fast through position changes during the game (30). Controlling the ball by the hockey stick improves the general balance and hand-eye coordination abilities of the players. Additionally, hockey sport has effects as lowering body-fat percentage and increasing bone-mineral density (32).

Hockey sport has some mental benefits along with the physical gains. Playing it requires the ability of making a good decision (11). This ability which is formed in the playing court can be transferred into the daily life. Additionally, as a form of exercise, hockey provides the common benefits of doing sports. Doing sports improves general mood (8). The endorphin that is secreted during exercise (14, 17) eases depression, stress and anxiety feelings (7, 15, 22).
As in all the physical activities, in the hockey sport there are some risks besides the health benefits (27). Playing hockey may cause injuries (3). Any precautions should be taken to avoid injuries. Especially, protective wears for hockey should be worn, correct warm-up and cool-down exercises should be made before and after training (3, 26). Field sports like hockey impose a wide range of physical demands on players such as speed, muscle endurance, power and agility (6). To our knowledge, there are few studies investigating the physical effects of long-term hockey trainings in young women. In this context, the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of field hockey on some physical fitness and body composition parameters in young females.



Twenty-four females volunteered to participate in this study. Twelve subjects were elite national-level field hockey players [(Hockey) n=12; age: 19.6 ± 0.8 years; playing experience: 6.5 ± 0.4 years (mean ± SD)] and twelve non-athletes control [(Control) n=12; age: 19.7 ± 0.9 years (mean ± SD)]. The control group subjects were healthy, non-athletes college students. All subjects were informed of the purpose of the study, completed a medical history form, and signed a written consent form. The measurements of the hockey players were made after obtaining the permission of the national team coach.

Anthropometric Measurements

Weight and height: All measurements took place under laboratory conditions. Participants were instructed to refrain from eating or drinking within two hours of the appointment and to empty the bladder before measurements were taken. Body weight and height were measured by using a mechanical scale with height rod (Seca 700; Seca GmbH & Co. KG., Hamburg, Germany). Weight graduation was 50 g, and measure rod graduation was 1 mm. Subjects were weighed in the very morning wearing shorts and T-shirt and in bare feet.

Body composition: Body-fat percentage (%body fat), fat mass (fm), fat-free mass (ffm) were assessed by using foot-to-foot bioelectrical impedance analyzer (BIA) (Tanita BC-418 MA; Tanita Corp., Japan). Subjects were asked to remove all jewelries and other metal accessories. BIA measurements were performed through the manufacturer’s procedures.

Physical fitness parameter measurements

Speed: 30-meter sprint test was conducted indoors on a polished wooden floor using the Newtest 1000 sprint-timing system (Newtest 1000, Oulu, Finland). Subjects warmed up for 10 minutes. Electronic light gates were used as the timing system. The start line was marked 1 meter behind the line of the electronic timing gates at both end of the track. The subject was asked to complete 30-meter sprint as a maximal effort. The test was conducted three times. The fastest recorded time in seconds was used to assess the performance of the subject.

Leg power: Bosco Ergo jump System (Byomedic, S.C.P., Barcelona, Spain) was used to assess of leg muscular power. The system measures flight time during the vertical jump. The subject stood in socks or bare feet on the mat with evenly distributed weight over both feet. The subject squatted down until the knees were bent at 90 degrees, keeping the trunk straight. The hands were held on the hips during the jump. Once the mat was reset, the athlete jumped vertically as high as possible, and landed back on the mat with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. The test was conducted three times and best score was recorded. Harman formula given below was used to assess the leg power of the subjects:

Peak power (W) = (61.9 x jump height (cm)) + (36 x body mass (kg)) + 1822

Handgrip: A handgrip dynamometer (Digital Hand Grip Dynamometer, Takei A5401, Japan) was used to assess handgrip strength. The test was applied to the dominant hand of the subject. Before the measurement, the dynamometers handle adjusted to fit the size of the hand of the subject. During the test, the subject at standing position with shoulder adducted and elbow in full extension. The dynamometer was held freely without support, without touching the subject’s trunk. The subject applied as much grip pressure as possible on the dynamometer for 2-3 seconds and the maximum reading in kilogram was recorded. The subjects were encouraged to produce a maximum effort. The measurements were performed within two trials and the best score was used for further analysis.

Posture balance: Balance was measured by a Tetrax system (Tetrax Ltd, Ranmat Gan, Israel). The Tetrax system measures the pressure transferred to the force plates during standing position. The balance measurements of the subjects were done in the afternoon in order to avoid morning stiffness.


The mean and standard deviations (mean ± SD) were calculated as descriptive statistics. Data were analysed by using Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences software (SPSS for Windows version 17.0). The difference between the groups was analysed by Independent t-test. The homogeneity of variances was assessed by Levene tests. The level of significance was set at 0.05.


Descriptive characteristics of the subjects were presented in Table 1. There were no significant differences in all descriptive variables between groups (p > 0.05). The body-composition comparisons, physical-fitness-parameter comparisons between hockey and control groups are presented in Table 2 and Table 3, respectively.



Body-composition parameters

The results of the body-composition parameters were shown in Table 2. Independent t test revealed a significant difference between hockey players and controls in percent body fat (p < 0.014) and fat mass (p < 0.044). Hockey players have less body-fat percentage and fat mass than controls. There were no significant differences in fat-free mass between groups (p > 0.442).



Physical-fitness parameters

As shown in Table 3, speed scores of hockey players were significantly better compared to the controls (p < 0.014). There were significant differences between hockey players and controls in leg power (p < 0.006) and handgrip strength (p < 0.022), whereas no significant differences were observed in fall index score (p > 0.258). Leg power and hand grip strength scores of hockey players were better than controls.




In this study, the effects of field hockey sport on some body composition (body-fat percentage, fat mass, fat-free mass), and physical fitness (speed, leg power, grip strength, posture balance) parameters were examined. Results suggest that field hockey sport improves body-composition and physical-fitness parameters of young female subjects.

Body composition is an important component which improves maximal work capacity by affecting training-based alterations and some physiological parameters (35). Data from this study indicate that body-fat percentage and fat mass of the hockey groups were significantly lower than controls. The differences were -5.7%, -4.0kg, respectively. Similar observation has been reported by many researchers (5, 10, 32). Sparling et al. (1998) conducted a study with 12 members of the USA Olympic women’s field hockey team. The findings showed that mean bone-mineral density of field hockey team was 13 percent higher than normative standards, and the very mean percentage fat mass was low. In another research, Calo et al. (2009) analysed the anthropometric characteristics and the body composition of 24 Italian female national hockey team members with an age ranging between 19 and 34. The results of the study indicate that percentage of body fat of the hockey players was lower than the percentage body fat of the non-athletes women of the same age.

One of the aims of the present study was to examine the effects of field hockey sport on some physical-fitness parameters in young females. The results of this study suggest that speed test, leg power, and grip strength scores of hockey players were significantly better than age and weight matched non-sporting controls. The differences were -1.31 second for 30 m sprint test, 514.08 watt for leg power and 3.4kg for grip strength. Hockey players were faster and stronger than the matched control group. However, no significant differences were seen in posture balance scores between the groups. The balance scores of hockey groups were 5.58 points better but difference were not statistically significant. Research proves that regular participation to exercise programs may change the body composition of the attendants and has positive effects on the aging of the organism (12, 18). To be successful in the field sports, players need to have a lot of features such as endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, speed and coordination, technical and tactical knowledge (6). The primary consideration of the coaches is to enhance performance by improving all of these skills. Hockey as a field sport requires these features. Numerous studies were studied about the field hockey. Elferink-gemser et al. (2004) conducted a study on 126 field hockey players aged 12-16 years. Participants were 38 elite and 88 sub-elite levels. Results of the study indicated that elite players performed better than sub-elite players on physiological, technical, tactical and psychological characteristics. In another study time-motion analysis was used to document the movement patterns of field hockey players during the game. Study performed on Australian men’s field hockey team (age: 26 ± 3 years). The results suggested that the game consists of walking, jogging and high intensity repeated sprint activities (33). Similar results were found in a study by Macutkiewicz and Sunderland (23). The aim of the study was to assess the match-play activity patterns of 25 elite women field-hockey players (age: 26.2 ± 3.5 years). Match analysis was based on data from a global-positioning system (GPS). The results of the study demonstrate that mean playing time was 48 ± 4 minutes and 55.5% of match time was low-intensity (standing, walking), 38.1% was moderate-intensity (jogging, running), 6.4% was high-intensity (fast running, sprinting).

Consequently, the results of this study showed that regular participation to hockey training programs improves body composition, speed, lower and upper extremity strength in young females. However, posture balance score was not different between hockey players and non-sporting controls. One possible explanation for this result could be due to many factors affecting the balance, such as knee joint flexion, gender, age, height, muscular tension, input of visual sense, nervous disease, loss of proprioceptive sense, etc. (4, 25, 28, 40). The subjects of this study, healthy young individuals, may be the cause of this result. Most of the factors that adversely affect the body balance are increasing with aging (16, 29, 39). Limitations in the current study included conducting the study only on young females. Training within young males and different age groups may reveal different results. In addition, various parameters like bone-mineral density may also be investigated.


In conclusion, results of this study suggest that the sport factor had a significant effect on body-composition and physical-fitness parameters in young females. Both the findings of the present study and literature review show that field hockey includes many movement forms both aerobic and anaerobic. To be successful in field hockey, skills such as speed, strength, endurance and flexibility must be developed. Regular hockey training will develop these skills of individuals. There are also positive effects on body composition. It is important to start doing a sport at an early age for sportive success and a healthy body. Therefore, young people should be encouraged to participate in hockey and other team sports.




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