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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.