A new tool to control muscle load in football players
Professional football players have some particular physiological characteristics which allow them to run an average of 10-12 km per match as well as reaching speeds above 30 km/h.
The number of official matches that every season professional footballers play, has increased. Apart from the usual league matches, the best teams have to dispute other matches in European competitions, as well as local competitions. Also, many of its players have to also compete in other international competitions with their respective national teams. During the ’70s, the number of encounters disputed by the champion team of the European Cup was 40, but in recent years that number exceeds 70 matches. For instance, in 2018/2019, Heung-Min Son (Tottenham Hotspur and South Korea) and Alysson Becker (Liverpool and Brazil) played 78 and 72 matches and travelled over 110,000 and 80,000 kilometres. Teams are forced to dispute two matches in a very short period of time and playing too many could be a risk for its players. Match overload is considered a threat to a group’s performance.1,2
A recent research3 has proven that football teams that do not have a winter break during the season have a higher incidence rate of injuries. The study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine magazine in 2018, depicted an analysis of 56 elite teams from 15 different European countries for seven consecutive seasons (2010/2011-2016/2017). A member of the technical staff of each club registered the injuries and participation in training sessions as well as matches for every player. Winter breaks are defined as the number days between the last activity of the team (training session or match) before the break and the first activity (training session or match) after the break. The average winter break was of 10 days (minimum value of 4.3 days in Scotland and the maximum value of 29.5 days in Denmark). There was no break in England.
These results suggest the following conclusions:
The practical applications of this work suggest that the inclusion of rest periods during the season may be a good measure to reduce the risk of injury. Furthermore, based on the report, At the Limit: Player Workload in Elite Professional Men’s Football4 by FIFPro, other useful measures which could be applied are:
Carlos Lago Peñas
1 Ekstrand J, Waldén M, Hägglund M. A congested football calendar and the wellbeing of players: correlation between match exposure of European footballers before the 2002 World Cup and their injuries and performances during that World Cup. Br J Sports Med 2004; 38:493–7
2 Ekstrand J, Waldén M, Hägglund M. Hamstring injuries have increased by 4% annually in men’s professional football, since 2001: a 13-year longitudinal analysis of the UEFA Elite Club injury study. Br J Sports Med 2016; 50:731–7.
3 Ekstrand J, Spreco A, Davison M. Elite football players that do not have a winter break lose on average 303 player-days more per season to injuries than those teams that do: a comparison among 35 professional European teams. Br J Sports Med 2019; 53:1231–5.
4 FIFPro. At the Limit: Player Workload in Elite Professional Men’s Football4 2019. https://fifpro.org/attachments/article/7689/At%20The%20limit%20-%20Player%20Workload%20in%20Elite%20Professional%20Men’s%20Football%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf
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