Training Load and Player Monitoring in High-Level Football: Current Practice and Perceptions

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Training load (TL) is monitored with the aim of making evidence-based decisions on appropriate loading schemes to reduce injuries and enhance team performance. However, little is known in detail about the variables of load and methods of analysis used in high-level football. Therefore, the aim of this study was to provide information on the practices and practitioners’ perceptions of monitoring in professional clubs. Eighty-two high-level football clubs from Europe, the United States, and Australia were invited to answer questions relating to how TL is quantified, how players’ responses are monitored, and their perceptions of the effectiveness of monitoring. Forty-one responses were received. All teams used GPS and heart-rate monitors during all training sessions, and 28 used rating of perceived exertion. The top-5-ranking TL variables were acceleration (various thresholds), total distance, distance covered above 5.5 m/s, estimated metabolic power, and heart-rate exertion. Players’ responses to training are monitored using questionnaires (68% of clubs) and submaximal exercise protocols (41%). Differences in expected vs actual effectiveness of monitoring were 23% and 20% for injury prevention and performance enhancement, respectively (P < .001 d = 1.0−1.4). Of the perceived barriers to effectiveness, limited human resources scored highest, followed by coach buy-in. The discrepancy between expected and actual effectiveness appears to be due to suboptimal integration with coaches, insufficient human resources, and concerns over the reliability of assessment tools. Future approaches should critically evaluate the usefulness of current monitoring tools and explore methods of reducing the identified barriers to effectiveness.

The authors are with the National Sports Medicine Program, Excellence in Football Project, Aspetar Qatar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar.

National Sports Medicine Program, Excellence in Football Project, Aspetar Qatar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar

Address author correspondence to Richard Akenhead at richard.akenhead@aspetar.com.

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International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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