Monday, November 26, 2012

How to evaluate the recovery ability of your players
As discussed in the last week’s post the ability to recover fast after a match or a training session is critical to the player’s career pathway as well as to the team’s performance. Ideally, we are looking for players who can perform at the highest level during the match & recover fast so they are ready to perform high in the next match.
Practical steps to define your players’ ability & speed up recovery
1)      Identify the recovery pattern of your player. To do so you must evaluate certain parameters before and several hours/days after a match. There are many performance (sprints, vertical jumps, football specific endurance tests etc.) and non-performance related tests used in the literature (CK levels, mood state, sleep quality, delayed-onset muscle soreness questionnaires etc.).
2)      Better to follow a holistic approach. Answer the “why” before you choose the tests.
3)      Discuss with players and other staff in the club and develop a recovery strategy. From the variety of methods adopt those that
a.       Are science based
b.      Your players like the most
4)      Re-evaluate your players as you did in stage 1. Try to do that under similar, if possible, conditions. Then you will be able to make a conclusion on which method is more effective for your player.
5)      Look more to the individual rather than to the team as a whole. Try to find out what is suitable for every player. If you improve the player you will finally improve the team.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Is the 3-4 days recovery time between matches sufficient to restore performance?

In elite soccer, the number of matches per year, including domestic league and cup and international matches is very high. The number increases for the players of the national team. At certain periods, it is common for the teams to compete every 72-96 hours. As a result players may experience fatigue and be at a higher risk for a muscle injury.
Is that true?
There are at least two studies which have examined the role of the number of matches played on performance and injury rate. Dupont and colleagues (2010) from Lille University, France, and Celtic Lab, analyzed the effect of 2 matches per week on physical performance and injury rate in elite soccer players. The authors monitored match-related physical performance and injuries during 2 seasons for 32 professional players. Total distance covered, high-intensity distance, sprints number and distance was not affected by the number of matches per week (1 versus 2). However, the injury rate was about 6-fold higher when players played 2 matches per week.
In another study, Ekstrand and colleagues (2004) grouped the national team players according to the number of matches played during the 10 weeks before the World Cup 2002. The performance of the players during the World Cup was evaluated by a group of 3 international experts. The analysis showed that the players who underperformed played more matches during the 10 weeks before the World Cup than those who performed better than expected. This is of course contradictory to the previous study and underlines the need for more research and critical thinking.
At high level, the 72-96 hours of recovery between 2 matches might be sufficient to maintain physical performance. However, football performance might be negatively affected. To things to remind 1) It is worth noting that the results of both studies mentioned above are with elite players 2) results might have been affected by several factors such as the recovery techniques etc.
Practical applications
  • The higher the level of the players and hence their fitness level the greater the chances to play 2 matches every 72-96 hours without a significant decline in their physical performance.
  • We don’t know if this holds for lower level players.
  • Although physical performance might not be affected it seems that football performance might be lower than expected with high number of games. Again, this was observed during the World Cup which normally is being held at the end of the season and this should be kept in mind before making conclusions.
  • The ability to recover fast is crucial especially at the high level. This ability seems to be positively affected by a number of factors, among others:
    • high aerobic fitness
    • effective recovery techniques which include proper diet, sleep, physical and mental regeneration
It seems that the rate of recovery is affected by many parameters and is a very much an individual issue. Hence, first task is to develop the individual pattern of recovery after the match!

Dupont et al. Effect of 2 soccer matches in a week on physical performance and injury rate. Am J Sports Med 38:1752-1758, 2010.
Ekstrand et al. A congested football calendar and the wellbeing of players: correlation between match exposure of European footballers before the World Cup 2002 and their injuries and performances during that World Cup. Br J Sports Med 38: 493-497, 2004.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Preparation for the World Cup 2022

World Cup 2022 is not far ahead. Qatar will be the first country from the Middle East to host such a big event. The preparation has already started! Watch the videos presenting the vision of the State of Qatar to host the best event ever.