The Use of Recovery Strategies in Professional Soccer: A Worldwide Survey

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To survey soccer practitioners’ recovery strategy: (1) use, (2) perceived effectiveness, and (3) factors influencing their implementation in professional soccer. Methods: A cross-sectional convenience sample of professional soccer club/confederation practitioners completed a web-based survey (April to July 2020). Pearson chi-square and Fisher exact tests with Cramer V (φ − c) assessed relationships and their strength, respectively, between the perceived effectiveness and frequency of strategy use. Results: A total of 80 soccer practitioners (13 countries) completed the survey. The 3 most important recovery objectives were “alleviating muscle damage/fatigue,” “minimizing injury risk,” and “performance optimization.” The most frequently used strategies were active recovery, structured recovery day, extra rest day, massage, cold-water therapy, and carbohydrate provision (predominantly on match day and match day + 1). Relationships were identified between perceived effectiveness and frequency of strategy use for sleep medication (P < .001, φ − c = 0.48), carbohydrate provision (P = .007, φ − c = 0.60), protein provision (P = .007, φ − c = 0.63), an extra rest day (P < .001, φ − c = 0.56), and a structured recovery day (P = .049, φ − c = 0.50). Conclusions: The study demonstrates that professional soccer practitioners have a range of objectives geared toward enhancing player recovery. A disconnect is apparent between the perceived effectiveness of many recovery strategies and their frequency of use in an applied setting. Novel data indicate that strategies are most frequently employed around match day. Challenges to strategy adoption are mainly competing disciplinary interests and resource limitations. Researchers and practitioners should liaise to ensure that the complexities involved with operating in an applied environment are elucidated and apposite study designs are adopted, in turn, facilitating the use of practically effective and compatible recovery modalities.

Field and Harper are with the School of Human and Health Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, United Kingdom. Chrismas is with the Dept of Physical Education, College of Education, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar. Fowler is with the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. McCall is with the Research & Development Dept, Arsenal Football Club, London, United Kingdom, and the Research & Development Dept, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Paul and Taylor are with ASPETAR—Athlete Health and Performance Research Center, Qatar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar. Chamari is with the ASPETAR Sport Injury and Illness Prevention Program, Qatar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar. Taylor is also with the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom; the Human Performance Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia; and the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Taylor (l.taylor2@lboro.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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