Latest football science research

December 2021 edition

Team sport practitioners work in a fast-paced environment where rapid innovations are expected to provide competitive benefits. When implementing these new strategies and tools in practice, it is essential to have solid evidence. Practitioners often consider research as a slow and time-consuming process but these days a lot of interesting research is published.

Based on one of our key principles, we present our TSL selection of recent published research to support your evidence-based practice:

We start with some research about high-speed running activities in football.

Can we modify maximal speed running posture? Implications for performance and hamstring injury management

– Mendiguchia et al. in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

Jurdan Mendiguchia is an international authority in the topic of hamstring injury risk management.

Together with his colleagues, Mendiguchia designed an interesting 6-week intervention study aimed at improving the pelvic and lower-limb kinematics during sprinting in a group of amateur athletes.
The intervention consisted of 3 weekly sessions in which several strategies were integrated. Kinematics were tested before and after the intervention using 3D kinematic measurements.

Compared to a control group, the intervention group showed not only clear improvements in terms of both the pelvic and thigh kinematics but also in sprint performance. Therefore, the strategies included in the intervention may not only be useful for hamstring injury risk management but also for improving sprint performance.

Four weeks of power optimized sprint training improves sprint performance in adolescent soccer players

– Derakhti et al. in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

This study evaluated the use of heavy resisted sprint training (RST) to improve the sprint performance of adolescent football players.

The RST group performed 5x20m heavy resisted sprints twice a week for 4 weeks, the unresisted sprint training (UST) group performed 8×20 unresisted sprints and the control group took only part in regular training and match sessions.

The results showed that the sprint performance of the RST group improved significantly while no improvements were observed in the UST and control group.

Comparison of player-dependent and independent high-speed running thresholds to model injury risk in football

– Massard et al. in Journal of Sports Sciences

This study focused on the association between high-speed running and non-contact injury risk in football.

Traditionally, high-speed running zones are determined based on arbitrary thresholds (e.g., > 20 km.h-1. Because sprint characteristics differ between players, the use of individual thresholds has been suggested by earlier research. This study examined if the association between high-speed running and injury risk differs when using arbitrary or individualised thresholds.

The results of the study show limited impact of changing thresholds. The benefit of using individualised thresholds remains therefore unclear in terms of injury risk management.

The effects of Ramadan intermittent fasting on football players and implications for domestic football leagues over the next decade: a systematic review

– DeLang et al. in Sports Medicine

We end with a very relevant article about the effects of Ramadan intermittent fasting on football players’ physical performance.

This review study bundles evidence from studies that looked at the impact of Ramadan on players’ sprint, jump and endurance performance. The available evidence showed that decreased performances were mainly observed during late afternoon or evening testing (before breaking the fast).

However, there is no available evidence on the actual impact on physical match performance.

Unfortunately, we cannot avoid the topic. Let’s continue with two studies about COVID-19.

Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from on-field player contacts in amateur, youth and professional football

– Schreiber et al. in British Journal of Sports Medicine

This study investigated the risk of transmission while participating in training or match sessions in football.

Based on video analysis, the study demonstrated that the frequency of frontal contacts was lower than 1 contact per hour, each lasting no longer than 3 seconds. Together with epidemiological data, these findings suggest that risk of transmission during football is rather low.

This was also one of the conclusions presented by Dr Olaf Schumacher and Prof Martin Schwellnus at the recent IOC Conference on Prevention of Injury and Illness in Sport that was held in Monaco.

The impact of COVID-19 on physical performance and mental health – a retrospective case series of Belgian male professional football players

– Wagemans et al. in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living

This Belgian study compared the physical performance and mental health of football players before and after contamination by COVID-19.

Eleven players from a professional football club were involved in the study. No systematic changes in physical performance were observed (except an improvement in functional hamstring strength) but the mental health (i.e., mood, stress levels and the overall wellness) was clearly impacted negatively in the period after contamination.

Our self-report module allows the longitudinal monitoring of both the physical and mental status of players and can therefore be used to assess the impact of covid-related issues on players’ wellness.

We will be back in January with an overview of research published in December. Happy holidays to all our readers!

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