The aims of this study were to describe the internal and external match loads (ML) of refereeing activity during official soccer matches and to investigate the relationship among the methods of ML quantification across a competitive season. A further aim was to examine the usefulness of differential perceived exertion (dRPE) as a tool for monitoring internal ML in soccer referees. Twenty field referees (FRs) and 43 assistant referees (ARs) participated in the study. Data were collected from 30 competitive matches (FR = 20 observations, AR = 43 observations) and included measures of internal (Edwards’ heart-rate-derived training impulse [TRIMPEDW]) ML, external (total distance covered, distance covered at high speeds, and player load) ML, and ML differentiated ratings of perceived respiratory (sRPEres) and leg-muscle (sRPEmus) exertion. Internal and external ML were all greater for FRs than for ARs (–19.7 to –72.5), with differences ranging from very likely very large to most likely extremely large. The relationships between internal-ML and external-ML indicators were, in most cases, unclear for FR (r < .35) and small to moderate for AR (r < .40). The authors found substantial differences between RPEres and RPEmus scores in both FRs (0.6 AU; ±90% confidence limits 0.4 AU) and ARs (0.4; ±0.3). These data demonstrate the multifaceted demands of soccer refereeing and thereby highlight the importance of monitoring both internal and external ML. Moreover, dRPE represents distinct dimensions of effort and may be useful in monitoring soccer referees’ ML during official matches.
Castillo is with the Universidad Internacional Isabel I, Burgos, Spain. Cámara and Yanci are with the Faculty of Education and Sport, University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Weston and McLaren are with the Dept of Sport & Exercise Sciences, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK.