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Relationships Between Internal and External Match-Load Indicators in Soccer Match Officials

Daniel Castillo, Matthew Weston, Shaun J. McLaren, Jesús Cámara, and Javier Yanci

The aims of this study were to describe the internal and external match loads (ML) of refereeing activity during official soccer matches and to investigate the relationship among the methods of ML quantification across a competitive season. A further aim was to examine the usefulness of differential perceived exertion (dRPE) as a tool for monitoring internal ML in soccer referees. Twenty field referees (FRs) and 43 assistant referees (ARs) participated in the study. Data were collected from 30 competitive matches (FR = 20 observations, AR = 43 observations) and included measures of internal (Edwards’ heart-rate-derived training impulse [TRIMPEDW]) ML, external (total distance covered, distance covered at high speeds, and player load) ML, and ML differentiated ratings of perceived respiratory (sRPEres) and leg-muscle (sRPEmus) exertion. Internal and external ML were all greater for FRs than for ARs (–19.7 to –72.5), with differences ranging from very likely very large to most likely extremely large. The relationships between internal-ML and external-ML indicators were, in most cases, unclear for FR (r < .35) and small to moderate for AR (r < .40). The authors found substantial differences between RPEres and RPEmus scores in both FRs (0.6 AU; ±90% confidence limits 0.4 AU) and ARs (0.4; ±0.3). These data demonstrate the multifaceted demands of soccer refereeing and thereby highlight the importance of monitoring both internal and external ML. Moreover, dRPE represents distinct dimensions of effort and may be useful in monitoring soccer referees’ ML during official matches.

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External Match Loads of Footballers With Cerebral Palsy: A Comparison Among Sport Classes

Javier Yanci, Daniel Castillo, Aitor Iturricastillo, Tomás Urbán, and Raúl Reina

Purpose: To determine and compare the external match load, according to sport class (FT), of footballers with cerebral palsy (CP) during the International Federation of CP Football World Championships Qualification Tournament. Methods: Forty-two international male footballers with CP participated in the data collection. The footballers with CP were classified according to their FT into 3 groups (ie, FT5/6, FT7, and FT8). External match load (ie, total distance covered, distance covered at different speeds, accelerations, decelerations, player load, peak metabolic power, and changes of directions) was collected for both halves during official matches with global positioning system devices. Results: Players with lower impairment (FT8) covered more distance (effect size = 0.30–0.60) at high-intensity running (13.0–18.0 km·h−1) and sprinting (>18.0 km·h−1) and performed more (effect size = 0.29–1.08) accelerations, decelerations, and changes of direction at high intensity in matches than did other players (ie, FT5/6 and FT7 groups). Conclusion: Because high-intensity actions are relevant to football performance and there are differences caused by players’ impairments, the International Federation of CP Football classification protocols should include high-intensity actions during the technical assessment as part of the procedures for determining the sport class of football players with CP.

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Comparison of the Physical Response During Official Matches and Small-Sided Games in International Cerebral Palsy Footballers: Implications for Evidence-Based Classification

Javier Yanci, Daniel Castillo, Aitor Iturricastillo, Matías Henríquez, Alba Roldan, and Raúl Reina

This study aimed to analyze whether there are differences and associations in the physical responses in international-level cerebral palsy footballers between official matches and 2v2 small-sided games (2v2-SSG). One hundred seventy international cerebral palsy footballers participated in this study during three international championships. The physical responses of mean and maximum velocities, total distance, distance covered at different intensities, short-term actions, and player load were collected during 2v2-SSG and the real competition. The mean velocity, total distance, jogging, medium- and high-intensity distances, the number of moderate/high accelerations, decelerations, and player load were relatively higher in the 2v2-SSG than in the official matches. Even though the 2v2-SSG could become an appropriate drill to include during the classification process, due to the differences between a 2v2-SSG and the official competition, it is necessary to deepen the scientific knowledge for developing observation methods during real competition to strengthen the relationships between eligible impairments and activity limitation.

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Caffeine Ingestion Improves Performance During Fitness Tests but Does Not Alter Activity During Simulated Games in Professional Basketball Players

Javier Raya-González, Aaron T. Scanlan, María Soto-Célix, Alejandro Rodríguez-Fernández, and Daniel Castillo

Purpose: To examine the effects of acute caffeine supplementation on physical performance during fitness testing and activity during simulated games in basketball players. Methods: A double-blind, counterbalanced, randomized, crossover study design was followed. A total of 14 professional male basketball players ingested a placebo (sucrose) and caffeine (6 mg·kg−1 of body mass) in liquid form prior to completing 2 separate testing sessions. Each testing session involved completion of a standardized 15-minute warm-up followed by various fitness tests including 20-m sprints, countermovement jumps, Lane Agility Drill trials, and a repeated-sprint-ability test. Following a 20-minute recovery, players completed 3 × 7-minute 5-vs-5 simulated periods of full-court basketball games, each separated by 2 minutes of recovery. Local positioning system technology was used to measure player activity during games. Players completed a side-effects questionnaire 12 to 14 hours after testing. Results: Players experienced significant (P < .05), moderatevery large (effect size = −2.19 to 0.89) improvements in 20-m sprint, countermovement jump, Lane Agility Drill, and repeated-sprint-ability performance with caffeine supplementation. However, external workloads completed during simulated games demonstrated nonsignificant, trivialsmall (effect size = −0.23 to 0.12) changes between conditions. In addition, players reported greater (P < .05) insomnia and urine output after caffeine ingestion. Conclusions: Acute caffeine supplementation could be effective to improve physical performance during tests stressing fitness elements important in basketball. However, acute caffeine supplementation appears to exert no meaningful effects on the activity completed during simulated basketball games and may promote sleep disturbances and exert a diuretic effect when taken at 6 mg·kg−1 of body mass in professional players.

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Performance Analysis in Football-Specific Tests by Para-Footballers With Cerebral Palsy: Implications for Evidence-Based Classification

Javier Yanci, Daniel Castillo, Aitor Iturricastillo, Astrid Aracama, Alba Roldan, and Raúl Reina

Purpose: The objectives of this study were to analyze whether there were differences among para-footballers with different types and degrees of brain impairment (ie, bilateral spasticity, athetosis/ataxia, unilateral spasticity, minimum impairment criteria, or no impairment) in performing 3 football-specific tests requiring ball dribbling, to analyze whether there was an association among the results obtained in the 3 tests, and to determine whether the performance in the tests was associated with competitive level, level of training, or years’ experience in para-footballers with cerebral palsy (CP). Methods: A total of 123 footballers took part in the study, 87 of whom were footballers with CP and 36 who were without impairment. Both groups were assessed in 3 football-specific tests (Stop and Go, Turning and Dribbling, and the Illinois Agility Test). Results: The results showed that the footballers without impairment recorded a better performance in all tests (P < .01) in comparison with the CP players. No significant differences in test performance were observed among the CP players from different competitive levels. However, significant differences (P < .01) were observed between players with diplegia or athetosis/ataxia compared with players with hemiplegia or minimum impairment level. Performance in the tests did not correlate with years of football experience, weekly strength training sessions, or specific football training in the footballers with CP (P = .12–.95). Conclusions: These findings suggest the possible inclusion of these tests in the classification process for footballers with CP because they discriminate among functional classes and are resistant to training and competitive level.

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Determining the Relationship Between Internal Load Markers and Noncontact Injuries in Young Elite Soccer Players

Javier Raya-González, Fabio Yuzo Nakamura, Daniel Castillo, Javier Yanci, and Maurizio Fanchini

Purpose: To examine the association and predictive ability of internal load markers with regard to noncontact injuries in young elite soccer players. Methods: Twenty-two soccer players (18.6 [0.6] y) who competed in the Spanish U19 League participated in the study. During a full season, noncontact injuries were recorded and, using session rating of perceived exertion, internal weekly load (sum of load of all training sessions and matches for each week) and acute:chronic workload ratio (typically, acute = current week and chronic = rolling 4-wk average) were calculated. A generalized estimating equation analysis was used to examine the association of weekly and acute:chronic load-ratio markers with a noncontact injury in the subsequent week. Load variables were also analyzed for predictive ability with receiver operating characteristic curve and area under the curve. Results: No association was found for weekly load (odds ratio = 1.00; 90% confidence interval, 0.99–1.00) and acute:chronic load ratio (odds ratio = 0.16; 90% confidence interval, 0.01–1.84) with respect to injury occurrence. In addition, the analyzed load markers showed poor ability to predict injury occurrence (area under the curve < .50). Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that internal load markers are not associated with noncontact injuries in young soccer players and present poor predictive capacity with regard to the latter.

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Assessing the Relationship Between External and Internal Match Loads in Elite Women’s Rugby Sevens

Daniele Conte, Ademir Felipe Schultz Arruda, Filipe M. Clemente, Daniel Castillo, Paulius Kamarauskas, and Aristide Guerriero

Purpose: To assess the relationship between external and internal load during official women’s rugby seven matches. Methods: Six backs (age = 24.2 [3.2] y; height = 161.5 [7.3] cm; body mass = 59.5 [5.0] kg; playing experience = 5.3 [1.5] y) and 8 forwards (age = 22.4 [2.7] y; height = 167.0 [4.8] cm; body mass = 70.6 [5.6] kg; playing experience = 5.0 [1.5] y) belonging to the women’s rugby seven Brazilian national team were monitored across 3 international tournaments during the 2019–20 season, with 2 players excluded from the analysis since they did not participate in any investigated match. Total distance (TD), distance during high-intensity running 18.1 to 20.0 km·h−1 and >20 km·h−1 (sprinting), number of accelerations >1.8 m·s−2 (ACC), and of decelerations <1.8 m·s−2 were used as match load volume measures, while their relative values (TD per minute, high-intensity running per minute, sprinting per minute, ACC per minute, and decelerations per minute) were used as external load match intensity measures. Internal load intensity and volume were assessed using the session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE) and its value multiplied by match duration (sRPE-ML), respectively. Spearman correlations and linear mixed models were used to assess the relationships between internal and external load measures. Results: A very large relationship (ρ = .830, P < .001) was found between sRPE-ML and TD, with linear mixed models showing that TD statistically affected sRPE-ML (P < .001). Linear mixed models analysis showed that ACC per minute was also affecting the sRPE-ML (P = .017), while sprinting (P = .007) and ACC per minute (P = .005) were the only 2 measures statistically affecting sRPE. However, weak relationships (trivial to large) were found for these and all other measures. Conclusions: These results highlight that TD is the main external load measure able to anticipate the internal load responses measured via sRPE-ML in elite women’s rugby sevens.