THE EFFECT OF RELATIVE AGE ON THE IDENTIFICATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF SPORTS TALENT
The effect of relative age refers to the difference in skills between people who have been grouped for a particular purpose or function based on age.
Injuries, specially muscle injuries, are a great concern in sports as they represent the main cause of interruption for athletes. Moreover, in the case of team sports such as football, these injuries do not just represent a limitation on the athletes’ performance, but they can negatively impact the whole team as a result of the reduced availability of injured players in the team’s tactical planning, and they can also affect the club’s economy (with an estimated average cost of €500,000 per player for each month of absence).1 Thus, the average absence due to muscle injury is 16 days with an injury load (days of absence/hours of exposure) of 43 days per 1000 hours of sports training for football players in elite European teams.2 Therefore, muscle injury prevention is key for elite teams.
The hands-on approach based on evidence, which consists in combining high-quality scientific evidence with hands-on experience, is considered a gold standard to optimize the results in high performance.3 Because of that, professional teams should combine scientific knowledge with the experience of coaches, doctors, the coaching staff, and the players to prevent injuries. Usually, professionals resort to strategies based on exercising to prevent muscle injuries.4 In 2015, Alan McCall and Gregory Dupont, among other experts, summarized the existing preventive exercises in scientific literature, concluding that the most commonly used strategies based on exercising included eccentric and balance/proprioception exercises, although the scientific evidence that supports these strategies was weak and little recommended.4 However, since McCall et al. published their work in 2015, research and the interest of professionals in injury prevention has increased in the past 5 years, so it is appropriate to update such work.
Therefore, a new systematic review, in which FC Barcelona Medical Services have collaborated, has just been published. It assesses the effectiveness of strategies based on exercising to prevent muscle injury in elite athletes.5 In this new work, authors have found two systematic reviews with low risk of bias concluding that there is no high-level scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of strategies based on exercising to prevent muscle injury in elite players. Although five randomized controlled trials (RCT) and seven non-randomized ones supported the effectiveness of eccentric exercise, proprioception and multi-component exercises in injury prevention programmes posed a high risk of bias. Finally, there was only one RCT with low risk of bias that supported conducting eccentric exercises to prevent groin problems. Ultimately, the results confirm that there is no solid scientific evidence that supports the role of strategies based on exercising to prevent muscle injury in elite athletes.5
A recently published study collected the opinion of 21 experts from different fields (physical therapists, sports scientists, exercise physiologists and sport physicians) with more than 12 years of experience in elite football and academic knowledge.6 The experts agreed to conclude that exercises such as sprints and high-speed running are perceived as more effective to prevent muscle injury, followed by eccentric exercises. The day to perform sprints and high-speed running or eccentric exercises will depend on the proximity to the previous and following match. Furthermore, concentric, and isometric exercises, vertical and horizontal plyometric, coordination exercises, core, and dynamic flexibility, as well as stability exercises were also defined as “partially effective” to prevent muscle injury. However, they did not come to any conclusions regarding the scheduling of training variables, such as the number of sets or repetitions, as it will depend of the context.
Therefore, according to the experts’ opinion, strategies based on exercising to prevent muscle injury should be mainly focused on sprints, high-speed running and eccentric exercises, combined in a multidimensional programme together with other types of exercises that have shown some level of effectiveness. Similarly, experts agree that the context in which these exercises are performed is key. Also, scientific evidence does not seem to support the role of strategies based on exercising to prevent injuries. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that this does not mean these exercises are not important or effective, but, maybe, they have not been scientifically validated yet.
Mental abilities, although not yet fully appreciated, are already considered a relevant part of performance. But their importance could go beyond that: Do they also influence the injury risk, including recurrence, once the player returns to play?
Although several studies have tried to evaluate the characteristics of the risk of injury in handball players, they have been unable to reach sufficiently reliable conclusions. A new study of all the FC Barcelona handball categories has attempted to shed more light on the subject.
Although there are several studies on this topic, many of them have analyzed these demands by looking at just a few variables or using very broad timeframes. A new study completed by physical trainers from F.C. Barcelona has analyzed several of these details more closely.
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.
In this article, Tim Gabbett and his team provide a user-friendly guide for practitioners when describing the general purpose of load management to coaches.
For the first time, it has been demonstrated that it does not take months of training to significantly improve both muscle volume and strength; instead, two weeks of an appropriate exercise are enough.
Training using eccentric exercises is important to prevent possible damage. However, intensive training can also cause muscle damage, so it is critical to be vigilant in order to keep injury risk to an absolute minimum.
Cardiovascular endurance manifests as a moderator of the load result to which the athlete is exposed.
Through the use of computer vision we can identify some shortcomings in the body orientation of players in different game situations.