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Basketball is a very demanding sport. A player performs approximately one thousand actions on average during a game, and at least one out of every ten requires high intensity. These include explosive movements such as sprints, jumps, accelerations and decelerations.
The detailed analysis of these physical demands allows for optimized training, improved performance and decreased injury risk. For the first time, a high-precision study—with participation by F.C. Barcelona trainers—has examined several of these variables, including accelerations and decelerations (braking) at different intensities. The study was published in the Kinesiology journal, and among the various conclusions, it highlights that in general high-intensity braking is particularly frequent and occurs more than accelerations. This data allows us, for example, to refocus some of the training sessions in order to influence the load with eccentric exercises, which are especially suitable for these types of movements.
Never before have the movements of professional players during match day been analyzed with this level of precision. To do so, technology based on accelerometers was used, which allowed data on short movements to be obtained inside a sports hall. “Traditional GPS did not allow us to do this inside,” explained Jairo Vázquez, physical trainer for the Club and the article’s main author.
The study examined the twelve first division players for two complete official games, and analyzed their accelerations and decelerations at different intensities, the numerical relationship between these, and the total external load; in this way, a comprehensive estimation of the movements performed during the game was obtained, calculated using an algorithm.
The results and the conclusions are varied. The most important and consistent is that in all the positions, high intensity decelerations are more frequent. This braking is especially numerous in point guards and perimeter players, probably due to dribbling actions and shot preparation, as well as the need to react to the opponents’ maneuvers during the defensive phase. On the other hand, high intensity accelerations are especially frequent in pivots, perhaps due to the shorter duration of the actions in which they participate. However, in view of the small sample analyzed, this could be due to specific characteristics of the team. “Our inside players were very athletic,” assures Vázquez, “so we must be cautious when generalizing these results.”
High intensity braking involves an eccentric neuromuscular exercise. This can be trained very efficiently and in an increasingly more accessible way using rotational inertia pulleys, as demonstrated in another Club study. “Seeing this data, and understanding the elevated amount of high-intensity braking, our idea of preparing players for these demands is reinforced, especially during the pre-season or for in-season periods with less competitive load,” states Vázquez. In addition, our understanding of the relationship between accelerations and braking will allow strength and conditioning coaches to “use this study to optimize tasks which emphasize this ratio in the field itself, as seen in football with small-sided tasks.” It also “allows them to individualize the workload by position, focusing on the specific configuration of the team,” he claims.
However, the research does not end here. “Technology does not stop evolving. Now we have an ‘indoor GPS’ that we can combine with accelerometers and other inertia sensors to improve precision and quality and to differentiate better between movements like jumps or horizontal impacts. To optimize athletic performance, we must build upon the data that science is providing us,” he concludes.
The Barça Innovation Hub team
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