Maturity-Associated Differences in Match Running Performance in Elite Male Youth Soccer Players

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

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James Parr
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Keith Winwood
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Emma Hodson-Tole
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Frederik J.A. Deconinck
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James P. Hill
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Sean P. Cumming
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Purpose: To investigate the influence of maturation on match running performance in elite male youth soccer players. Methods: A total of 37 elite male youth soccer participants from an English professional soccer academy from the U14s, U15s, and U16s age groups were assessed over the course of 1 competitive playing season (2018–2019). Relative biological maturity was assessed using percentage of predicted adult height. A global positioning system device was used between 2 and 30 (mean = 8 [5]) times on each outfield player. The position of each player in each game was defined as defender, midfielder, or attacker and spine or lateral. A total of 5 match-running metrics were collected total distance covered, high-speed running distance, very high-speed running distance, maximum speed attained, and number of accelerations. Results: Relative biological maturity was positively associated with all global positioning system running metrics for U14s. The U15/16s showed variation in the associations among the global positioning system running metrics against maturity status. A multilevel model which allowed slopes to vary was the best model for all parameters for both age groups. In the U14 age group, advanced maturation was associated with greater high-speed running distance. However, maturation did not contribute toward variance in any of the indices of running performance in the U15/16s. In the U15/16 age group, significance was observed in the spine/lateral playing positions when undertaking actions that required covering distance at high speeds. Conclusions: Maturation appeared to have an impact on match-running metrics within the U14s cohort. However, within the U15/16s, the influence of maturation on match-running metrics appeared to have less of an impact.

Parr, Winwood, and Hodson-Tole are with the Dept of Life Sciences, Musculoskeletal Sciences and Sports Medicine Research Centre, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom. Parr is also with Manchester United Football Club, Manchester, United Kingdom. Deconinck is with the Dept of Movement & Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Hill is with the Dept of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom. Cumming is with the Dept for Health, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom.

Parr (james.parr@manutd.co.uk) is corresponding author.
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