The Role of the Immune System in Sports Performance
The immune system is our body’s defence system against external elements such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
The competitive season in team sports is often divided into 3 phases with very different objectives: the pre-season (lasting 4-6 weeks), the competitive season (9-10 months) and the off-season or holiday period (4-6 weeks). While we know a lot about how players should work during the first two parts of the season, we have not put as much effort into studying the effect rest has on a player’s performance. There could be a high risk of compromising a player’s optimal future performance if their workload during this period is not appropriately planned out.
A 2016 review of the physiological effects that the off-season has on football players published in Sports Medicine1 journal warns of the dangers of total rest or a substantial reduction in training during this period. The authors examined 12 studies that had to meet 3 conditions: they must have analysed adult football players (over 18 years of age), the specific times when the physiological and performance evaluations were performed, and its effects have to be calculated appropriately. The results suggested that lack of training during holidays (from 3-8 weeks) causes:
In any case, it is worth pointing out a very significant finding. The negative effects resulting from the lack of training are much more visible when the rest period lasts longer than 4 weeks. Loss of performance is significantly less pronounced with breaks lasting less than 4 weeks. Also, the data should be viewed with caution since the analysed studies included both professional and semi-professional athletes.
The same study also provided some suggestions on how to reduce the negative effects resulting from the drop-off in training during the holidays:
The off-season, besides being useful for recovering from the physiological and psychological stress of the season, can be seen as an opportunity to better prepare players for the coming year. A well-planned off-season programme can help improve the effects of training in the upcoming pre-season, and can also correct or reduce specific player issues that cannot be addressed at other times during the year due to time constraints. Ultimately, it is looking after the fitness of an individual player as opposed to that of the team.
Carlos Lago Peñas
An article published in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine —in which members of the club’s medical services participated— now suggests to consider the detailed structure of the area affected, and treating the extracellular matrix as an essential player in the prognosis of the injury.