Do Footballers Get Injured More Now Than Before?
In today’s football, players compete more and more matches over the season.
The evolution of elite sport has meant that players undertake high competitive loads caused by schedules packed with extremely demanding matches and practically no rest periods between them. Sports such as basketball have experienced an increase in neuromuscular, biomechanical and physiological demands.1 A basketball player performs approximately one thousand actions on average per game (divided into jumps, changes of direction, sprints, accelerations and decelerations, etc.). One in ten such actions is performed at high intensity.2 Knowledge of the physical and physiological demands to which basketball players are exposed during competition will allow the prescription and optimisation of training loads, minimising the risk of injury.3
In recent years, technology has provided new lines of research, providing new evidence in the study of physical requirements in team sports. Technological development has favoured the incorporation of tools for the real-time quantification of movement, allowing researchers to control and assess workloads that occur during competition and training. A clear example of this has been the use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), with GPS being the best known. These provide valid information about parameters related to external loads (e.g., distance travelled, speed and acceleration etc.) in outdoor sports such as football or rugby. However, these devices have certain limitations, such as the inability to record in indoor activities.4
The latest technological advances have provided the possibility of monitoring players who practice sports indoors (e.g., on basketball courts) using Local Positioning Systems (LPS) and providing greater reliability and validity than those provided by traditional GNSS.5, 6 This new tool will enable fitness coaches, sports scientists and coaches to modulate the physiological and technical demands during training, “playing” with variables such as the number of players, specific rules for the game, dimensions of the court, or the number and duration of repetitions per task. However, its recent implementation means that, unlike the numerous research studies that exist on the application and functionality of GNSS in football, the use of LPS is less widespread and therefore its role in the quantification of external loads is less studied. For example, until now, we did not have evidence analysing the physical and physiological demands of professional basketball players in 5 vs 5 training situations in different playing areas.
In the prestigious Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, members of the FC Barcelona performance department have recently published the results of a novel study evaluating whether modifying the rules of the game during 5 vs 5 situations could have any effect on the physical responses of professional basketball players.7 The physical demands of 12 elite players were evaluated using the WIMU PRO local positioning system, through which the total distance and the distance travelled at different speed ranges, player exertion, maximum speed, the number of actions at high intensity, the total number of accelerations and decelerations at high intensity and maximum acceleration were all measured. The players were evaluated in 3 different 5 vs 5 situations: i) playing in the middle of the court; ii) mid-court with a transition; and iii) full court.
The results obtained seem to suggest that the larger the dimensions where the game situations are carried out, the greater the physical load noted through distance travelled, player exertion and maximum speed, in addition to finding a relationship with the total actions at high intensity, as well as accelerations and decelerations at high intensity.7
This study suggests that the modification of game rules, varying the playing area, has an effect on the physical demands placed on the basketball players. Thus, with this data in mind, the coaching staff of professional teams could, for example, modulate the physical response of the players by simply adjusting the size of the court during 5 vs. 5 situations. This will favour the prescription and periodisation of training. To optimise training sessions and performance at this level of sport, it is necessary to use objective data provided by different studies.
Javier S. Morales