Once the information has been analysed, the coach is only notified if there is an anomaly. At that point, the day’s training will be modified for that player or a group of players. As Marc Guitart, strength and conditioning coach for Barça B, explains: ‘When a red flag goes up, regardless of whether it’s due to too much or too little work, the coach is notified so that he can determine whether a partial modification—such as using a player as a wild card in some exercises, or keeping him back from others—is sufficient, or if a more specific follow-up is needed. If the data points are too low, perhaps the player needs a little more stimulation through additional work at the end of the training session’.
The assessment is carried out differently at various levels. For example, the strength and conditioning coach for Barça B uses an iPad to ask each player the questions, while youth players fill in the questionnaire themselves using an app built by the club (eKeep), which each player has downloaded onto their smartphone.
However, there are limitations when implementing this sort of tool. For these questionnaires to be reliable, players must internalise the scoring system and be able to differentiate between the numbers, as Marc Guitart tells us: ‘In the beginning, players aren’t able to associate a numerical value with the intensity of their fatigue unless they’ve gone through all of the possible values on the scale, and that’s more of an adaptive process than an educational one’. Finally, it’s vital to explain to players the importance of honesty when responding; in other words, players shouldn’t be concerned about the assessment having an impact on their participation in the next game. As Xavier Franquesa states: ‘From the pre-season onwards, they have to understand that their responses to the questionnaire will not mean that they will play more or less. They need to be honest when answering, and even if they tell us that they have very high levels of muscle damage, that doesn’t mean that they won’t play in the next game. Instead, the physiotherapist will take the appropriate measures to reduce injury risk’.
Ultimately, the process of monitoring and understanding TL—which can be implemented quickly and practically through questionnaires on a phone—will help prescribe the correct dosage of training in order to maximise each player’s performance while minimising injury risk. Moreover, in cases where a high injury risk is identified, it will allow to implement the appropriate recovery protocols (rest, nutrition, stretching, etc.) to reduce the risk.
The Barça Innovation Hub team
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