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Acute Consumption of Varied Doses of Cocoa Flavanols Does Not Influence Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage

Liam D. Corr, Adam Field, Deborah Pufal, Jenny Killey, Tom Clifford, Liam D. Harper, and Robert J. Naughton

Polyphenol consumption has become a popular method of trying to temper muscle damage. Cocoa flavanols (CF) have attracted attention due to their high polyphenol content and palatability. As such, this study will investigate whether an acute dose of CF can aid recovery following exercise-induced muscle damage. The study was a laboratory-based, randomized, single-blind, nutrient-controlled trial involving 23 participants (13 females and 10 males). Participants were randomized into either control ∼0 mg CF (n = 8, four females); high dose of 830 mg CF (CF830, n = 8, five females); or supra dose of 1,245 mg CF (CF1245, n = 7, four females). The exercise-induced muscle damage protocol consisted of five sets of 10 maximal concentric/eccentric hamstring curls and immediately consumed their assigned drink following completion. To measure muscle recovery, maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) of the knee flexors at 60° and 30°, a visual analog scale (VAS), and lower-extremity function scale were taken at baseline, immediately, 24-, 48-, and 72-hr postexercise-induced muscle damage. There was a main effect for time for all variables (p < .05). However, no significant differences were observed between groups for all measures (p ≥ .17). At 48 hr, there were large effect sizes between control and CF1245 for MVIC60 (p = .17, d = 0.8); MVIC30 (p = .26, d = 0.8); MVIC30 percentage change (p = .24 d = 0.9); and visual analog scale (p = .25, d = 0.9). As no significant differences were observed following the consumption of CF, there is reason to believe that CF offer no benefit for muscle recovery when ingested acutely.

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

Adam Field, Liam D. Harper, Bryna C.R. Chrismas, Peter M. Fowler, Alan McCall, Darren J. Paul, Karim Chamari, and Lee Taylor

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.

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The Quantification of Physical Performance and Internal Training Load in Youth Male Soccer Players During Preseason

Diogo V. Martinho, André Rebelo, Adam Field, Alex S. Ribeiro, Filipa Pereira, Bruno Bizarro, João Ribeiro, Silvano M. Len, Élvio R. Gouveia, and Hugo Sarmento

Purpose: The monitoring of training loads and quantification of physical performance are common practices in youth soccer academies to support coaches in prescribing and programming training for individuals. The interaction between training load and physical performance is unknown during a preseason period in youth soccer players. The current study assessed changes in training load and physical assessments across a 4-week preseason period. The relationship between physical performance and match playing time in youth male soccer players was also investigated. Methods: The training loads of 25 professional youth academy male soccer players were monitored throughout a 4-week preseason period. Assessments of power, agility, speed, and aerobic capacity were undertaken in the first training session. Session ratings of perceived exertion (sRPE) and well-being questionnaires were collected during all training sessions and preseason matches. Playing time during subsequent competitive matches was recorded. Results: T test and 30-m-sprint assessments, conducted on the first day of preseason, were predictors of sRPE throughout preseason (t test χ2/df = 2.895, poor adjustment; 30-m sprint χ2/df = 1.608, good adjustment). YoYo Test performance was related with changes in perceived fatigue (χ2/df = 0.534, very good adjustment). Faster players reported higher values of sRPE, and players with higher aerobic capacity reported higher levels of fatigue across preseason. Well-being, perceived fatigue and soreness, and sRPE decreased across preseason. Greater match durations were related to higher levels of fatigue during preseason (P < .05). Conclusion: The current study highlights the relationship between training load, physical assessments, and playing time. Coaches and practitioners can use physical test data at the start of preseason as an indication of players that report higher sRPE, perceived fatigue, and reduced well-being across preseason, supporting decisions around individualized training prescriptions.