Monitoring Practices of Training Load and Biological Maturity in UK Soccer Academies

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Overuse injury risk increases during periods of accelerated growth, which can subsequently impact development in academy soccer, suggesting a need to quantify training exposure. Nonprescriptive development scheme legislation could lead to inconsistent approaches to monitoring maturity and training load. Therefore, this study aimed to communicate current practices of UK soccer academies toward biological maturity and training load. Methods: Forty-nine respondents completed an online survey representing support staff from male Premier League academies (n = 38) and female Regional Talent Clubs (n = 11). The survey included 16 questions covering maturity and training-load monitoring. Questions were multiple-choice or unipolar scaled (agreement 0–100) with a magnitude-based decision approach used for interpretation. Results: Injury prevention was deemed highest importance for maturity (83.0 [5.3], mean [SD]) and training-load monitoring (80.0 [2.8]). There were large differences in methods adopted for maturity estimation and moderate differences for training-load monitoring between academies. Predictions of maturity were deemed comparatively low in importance for bio-banded (biological classification) training (61.0 [3.3]) and low for bio-banded competition (56.0 [1.8]) across academies. Few respondents reported maturity (42%) and training load (16%) to parent/guardians, and only 9% of medical staff were routinely provided this data. Conclusions: Although consistencies between academies exist, disparities in monitoring approaches are likely reflective of environment-specific resource and logistical constraints. Designating consistent and qualified responsibility to staff will help promote fidelity, feedback, and transparency to advise stakeholders of maturity–load relationships. Practitioners should consider biological categorization to manage load prescription to promote maturity-appropriate dose–responses and to help reduce the risk of noncontact injury.

Salter is with the School of Sport, York St John University, York, United Kingdom. De Ste Croix and Hughes are with the School of Sport and Exercise, University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester, United Kingdom. Weston is with the School of Health and Life Sciences, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom. Towlson is with the School of Life Sciences, Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom.

Salter (j.salter@yorksj.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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