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Use of Numerically Blinded Ratings of Perceived Exertion in Soccer: Assessing Concurrent and Construct Validity

Ric Lovell, Sam Halley, Jason Siegler, Tony Wignell, Aaron J. Coutts, and Tim Massard

Purpose: To examine the concurrent and construct validity of numerically blinded ratings of perceived exertion (RPEs). Methods: A total of 30 elite male youth soccer players (age 16.7 [0.5] y) were monitored during training and matches over a 17-wk in-season period. The players’ external loads were determined via raw 10-Hz global positioning system. Heart rate (HR) was collected continuously and expressed as Bannister and Edwards training impulses, and minutes >80% of the players predetermined the maximum HR by the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 1. RPE was collected confidentially 10 to 15 min after training/matches using 2 methods: (1) a traditional verbal response to the 0 to 100 category-ratio “centiMax” scale (RPE) and (2) numerically blinded RPE centiMax scale (RPEblind) with the response selected manually via a 5 × 7-in tablet “slider.” The RPE and RPEblind were divided by 10 and multiplied by the duration to derive the sessional RPE. Linear mixed models compared ratings, and within-subject repeated-measures correlations assessed the sessional RPE versus HR and external load associations. Results: There were no differences between the RPE and RPEblind (0.19; 95% confidence intervals, −0.59 to 0.20 au, P = .326) or their session values (13.5; 95% confidence intervals, −17.0 to 44.0 au, P = .386), and the ratings were nearly perfectly correlated (r = .96). The associations between the sessional RPE versus HR and external load metrics were large to very large (r = .65–.81), with no differences between the RPE methods (P ≥ .50). The RPEblind also reduced verbal anchor clustering and integer bias by 11% and 50%, respectively. Conclusions: RPEblind demonstrated concurrent and construct validity versus the traditional method, and may be used in situations where practitioners have concerns regarding the authenticity of athlete ratings.

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Upper-Body Resistance Training Following Soccer Match Play: Compatible, Complementary, or Contraindicated?

Angelo Sabag, Ric Lovell, Neil P. Walsh, Nick Grantham, Mathieu Lacome, and Martin Buchheit

Purpose: During heavily congested schedules, professional soccer players can experience exacerbated fatigue responses, which are thought to contribute to an increased risk of injury. Given that match-induced residual fatigue can last up to 72 hours, many coaches naturally prioritize recovery in the days immediately following match day. While it is intuitive for coaches and training staff to decrease the amount of auxiliary training practices to focus on recovery, prescribing upper-body resistance training on the day after match play has recently emerged as a specific training modality in this context. While these sessions may be implemented to increase training stimulus, there are limited data available regarding the efficacy of such a practice to improve recovery kinetics. Methods: In this narrative review, the authors look at the theoretical implications of performing upper-body resistance training on the day after match play on the status of various physiological and psychological systems, including neuromuscular, metabolic, hormonal, perceptual, and immunological recovery. Results: The available evidence suggests that in most cases this practice, as currently implemented (ie, low volume, low intensity), is unlikely to be complementary (ie, does not accelerate recovery) but is potentially compatible (ie, does not impair recovery). Conclusion: Overall, because the perception of such sessions may be player dependent, their programming requires an individualized approach and should take into account match dynamics (eg, fixture scheduling, playing time, travel).

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Changes in a Top-Level Soccer Referee’s Training, Match Activities, and Physiology Over an 8-Year Period: A Case Study

Matthew Weston, Warren Gregson, Carlo Castagna, Simon Breivik, Franco M. Impellizzeri, and Ric J. Lovell

Athlete case studies have often focused on the training outcome and not the training process. Consequently, there is a dearth of information detailing longitudinal training protocols, yet it is the combined assessment of both outcome and process that enhances the interpretation of physical test data. We were provided with a unique opportunity to assess the training load, physical match performance, and physiological fitness of an elite soccer referee from the referee’s final season before attaining full-time, professional status (2002) until the season when he refereed the 2010 UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup finals. An increased focus on on-field speed and gym-based strength training was observed toward the end of the study period and longitudinal match data showed a tendency for decreased total distances but an increased intensity of movements. Laboratory assessments demonstrated that VO2max remained stable (52.3 vs 50.8 mL-kg–1-min–1), whereas running speed at the lactate threshold (14.0 vs 12.0 km-h-1) and running economy (37.3 vs 43.4 mLkg–1min–1) both improved in 2010 compared with 2002.

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The Effect of Superoxygenated Water on Blood Gases, Lactate, and Aerobic Cycling Performance

Lars R. McNaughton, Steve Kenney, Jason Siegler, Adrian W. Midgley, Ric J. Lovell, and David J. Bentley

Context:

Recently, superoxygenated-water beverages have emerged as a new purported ergogenic substance.

Purpose:

This study aimed to determine the effects of superoxygenated water on submaximal endurance performance.

Methods:

Eleven active male subjects, VO2max 52.6 ± 4.8 mL · kg−1 · min−1, height 180.0 ± 2.0 cm, weight 76.0 ± 7.0 kg, age 24 ± 1.0 y (mean ± SD), completed a 45-min cycle-ergometry exercise test at 70% of their previously predicted maximal power output with a 10-min rest period, followed by a 15-min time trial (TT). Thirty minutes before the exercise test subjects consumed 15 mL of either superoxygenated water (E) or placebo (P; water mixed with low-chlorine solution). Subjects then completed the test again a week later for the other condition (double-blind, randomized). The physiological variables measured during exercise were VO2, VCO2, respiratory-exchange ratio (RER), VE, PO2, PCO2, blood lactate (bLa–), and heart rate (HR). Mean distance covered and the average power output for the 15-min TT were also measured as performance indicators.

Results:

There were no significant differences in VO2, VCO2, RER, VE, bLa, PO2, and HR (P > .05) during the exercise tests. Neither were there any significant improvements in the total distance covered (P 9.01 ± 0.74 km vs E 8.96 ± 0.68 km, P > .05) or the average power output (P 186.7 ± 35.8 W vs E 179.0 ± 25.9 W, P > .05) during the 15-min TT.

Conclusion:

Based on these results the authors conclude that consuming 15 mL of superoxygenated water does not enhance submaximal or maximal TT cycling performance.

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A Worldwide Survey on the Practices and Perceptions of Submaximal Fitness Tests in Team Sports

Tzlil Shushan, Dean Norris, Shaun J. McLaren, Martin Buchheit, Tannath J. Scott, Steve Barrett, Antonio Dello Iacono, and Ric Lovell

Purpose: To survey team-sport practitioners on current practices and perceptions of submaximal fitness tests (SMFTs). Methods: A convenience sample of team-sport practitioners completed an online survey (September to November 2021). Descriptive statistics were used to obtain information of frequencies. A mixed-model quantile (median) regression was employed to assess the differences between the perceived influence of extraneous factors. Results: A total of 66 practitioners (74 discrete protocols) from 24 countries completed the survey. Time-efficient and nonexhaustive nature were considered the most important features of implementation. Practitioners prescribed a range of SMFTs, administered mostly on a monthly or weekly basis, but scheduling strategies appeared to differ across SMFT categories. Cardiorespiratory/metabolic outcome measures were collected in most protocols (n = 61; 82%), with the majority monitoring heart-rate-derived indices. Subjective outcome measures (n = 33; 45%) were monitored exclusively using ratings of perceived exertion. Mechanical outcome measures (n = 19; 26%) included either a combination of locomotor outputs (eg, distance covered) or variables derived from microelectrical mechanical systems. The perceived influence of extraneous factors on measurement accuracy varied according to outcome measure, and there was a lack of consensus among practitioners. Conclusions: Our survey showcases the methodological frameworks, practices, and challenges of SMFTs in team sports. The most important features for implementation perhaps support the use of SMFTs as a feasible and sustainable tool for monitoring in team sports. The wide variety of protocols, scheduling strategies, and outcome measures, along with their associated collection and analytical techniques, may reflect the absence of robust evidence regarding the application of SMFTs in team sports.

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Reduction in Physical Match Performance at the Start of the Second Half in Elite Soccer

Matthew Weston, Alan M. Batterham, Carlo Castagna, Matthew D. Portas, Christopher Barnes, Jamie Harley, and Ric J. Lovell

Purpose:

Soccer referees’ physical match performances at the start of the second half (46–60 min) were evaluated in relation to both the corresponding phase of the first half (0–15 min) and players’ performances during the same match periods.

Methods:

Match analysis data were collected (Prozone, UK) from 12 soccer referees on 152 English Premier League matches during the 2008/09 soccer season. Physical match performance categories for referees and players were total distance, high-speed running distance (speed >5.5 m/s), and sprinting distance (>7.0 m/s). The referees’ heart rate was recorded from the start of their warm-up to the end of the match. The referees’ average distances (in meters) from the ball and fouls were also calculated.

Results:

No substantial differences were observed in duration (16:42 ± 2:35 vs 16:27 ± 1:00 min) or intensity (107 ± 11 vs 106 ± 14 beats/min) of the referees’ preparation periods immediately before each half. Physical match performance was reduced during the initial phase of the second half when compared with the first half in both referees (effect sizes—standardized mean differences—0.19 to 0.73) and players (effect sizes 0.20 to 1.01). The degree of the decreased performance was consistent between referees and players for total distance (4.7 m), high-speed running (1.5 m), and sprinting (1.1 m). The referees were closer to the ball (effect size 0.52) during the opening phase the second half.

Conclusion:

Given the similarity in the referees’ preparation periods, it may be that the reduced physical match performances observed in soccer referees during the opening stages of the second half are a consequence of a slower tempo of play.

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A Methodological Comparison of Protocols and Analytical Techniques to Assess the Outcome Measures of Submaximal Fitness Tests

Tzlil Shushan, Ric Lovell, Shaun J. McLaren, Steve Barrett, Martin Buchheit, Tannath J. Scott, and Dean Norris

Background: Submaximal fitness test (SMFT) outcome measures are frequently collected with a wide array of technologies and methodological approaches. Purpose: To examine the test–retest reliability of various SMFT outcome measures derived from different protocols and analytical techniques. Methods: Twenty-six semiprofessional adult soccer players performed 3 SMFT protocols, including 2 continuous (3 min, 11 and 12.8 km·h−1) and 1 intermittent (4 × 50 m, 18 km·h−1) twice, each separated by 7 days. Heart-rate (HR) indices (exercise HR, HR recovery) and scapula-mounted (PlayerLoad vector magnitude) and foot-mounted (flight time and contact time, stride length) microelectrical mechanical system–derived variables were collected using different time frames and analytical approaches adopted in the literature and practice. Absolute reliability was quantified as the group mean difference, typical error of measurement, also expressed as the coefficient of variation (where appropriate) and standardized units (ie, d). Intraclass correlation coefficient was used to quantify relative reliability. Results: The highest degrees of reliability were evident for exercise HR (typical error: 1.0%–1.6% points), the vertical component of PlayerLoad (expressed in arbitrary units; coefficient of variation: 5.5%–7.0%), and contact time (coefficient of variation: 1.5%–3.0%). These estimates were not influenced by SMFT protocol or analytical approach. All other measures displayed poorer reliability and/or were different between protocols and analytical methods. Conclusions: SMFT protocols impact the test–retest reliability of various outcome measures; however, exercise HR, vertical PlayerLoad, and contact time (derived from foot-mounted micro-electrical mechanical systems) appear to have stable measurement properties to assist the assessment of aerobic capacity and lower-limb neuromuscular status, respectively.