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Ric Lovell and Grant Abt

Purpose:

To report the intensity distribution of Premier League soccer players’ external loads during match play, according to recognized physiological thresholds. The authors also present a case in which individualized speed thresholds changed the interpretation of time–motion data.

Method:

Eight outfield players performed an incremental treadmill test to exhaustion to determine the running speeds associated with their ventilatory thresholds. The running speeds were then used to individualize time–motion data collected in 5 competitive fixtures and compared with commonly applied arbitrary speed zones.

Results:

Of the total distance covered, 26%, 57%, and 17% were performed at low, moderate, and high intensity, respectively. Individualized time– motion data identified a 41% difference in the high-intensity distance covered between 2 players of the same positional role, whereas the player-independent approach yielded negligible (5–7%) differences in total and high-speed distances covered.

Conclusions:

The authors recommend that individualized speed thresholds be applied to time–motion-analysis data in synergy with the traditional arbitrary approach.

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Steve Barrett, Adrian Midgley and Ric Lovell

Purpose:

The study aimed to establish the test–retest reliability and convergent validity of PlayerLoad™ (triaxial-accelerometer data) during a standardized bout of treadmill running.

Methods:

Forty-four team-sport players performed 2 standardized incremental treadmill running tests (7–16 km/h) 7 d apart. Players’ oxygen uptake (VO2; n = 20), heart rate (n = 44), and triaxialaccelerometer data (PlayerLoad; n = 44) measured at both the scapulae and at the center of mass (COM), were recorded. Accelerometer data from the individual component planes of PlayerLoad (anteroposterior [PLAP], mediolateral [PLML], and vertical [PLV]) were also examined.

Results:

Moderate to high test–retest reliability was observed for PlayerLoad and its individual planes (ICC .80–.97, CV 4.2–14.8%) at both unit locations. PlayerLoad was significantly higher at COM vs scapulae (223.4 ± 42.6 vs 185.5 ± 26.3 arbitrary units; P = .001). The percentage contributions of individual planes to PlayerLoad were higher for PLML at the COM (scapulae 20.4% ± 3.8%, COM 26.5% ± 4.9%; P = .001) but lower for PLV (scapulae 55.7% ± 5.3%, COM 49.5% ± 6.9%; P = .001). Between-subjects correlations between PlayerLoad and VO2, and between PlayerLoad and heart rate were trivial to moderate (r = –.43 to .33), whereas within-subject correlations were nearly perfect (r = .92–.98).

Conclusions:

PlayerLoad had a moderate to high degree of test–retest reliability and demonstrated convergent validity with measures of exercise intensity on an individual basis. However, caution should be applied in making between-athletes contrasts in loading and when using recordings from the scapulae to identify lower-limb movement patterns.

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Dean Norris, David Joyce, Jason Siegler, James Clock and Ric Lovell

Purpose: This study assessed the utility of force–time characteristics from the isometric midthigh pull (IMTP) as a measure of neuromuscular function after elite-level Australian rules football matches. It was hypothesized that rate characteristics of force development would demonstrate a different response magnitude and recovery time course than peak force measurements. Methods: Force–time characteristics of the IMTP (peak force, 0- to 50-ms rate of force development [RFD], 100- to 200-ms RFD) were collected at 48 (G+2), 72 (G+3), and 96 h (G+4) after 3 competitive Australian rules football matches. Results: Meaningful reductions (>75% of the smallest worthwhile change) were observed at G+2, G+3, and G+4 for RFD 0–50 milliseconds (−25.8%, −17.5%, and −16.9%) and at G+2 and G+3 for RFD 100–200 milliseconds (−15.7% and −11.7%). No meaningful reductions were observed for peak force at any time point (G+2 −4.0%, G+3 −3.9%, G+4 −2.7%). Higher week-to-week variation was observed for RFD 0–50 milliseconds (G+2 17.1%, G+3 27.2%, G+4 19.3%) vs both RFD 100–200 milliseconds (G+2 11.3%, G+3 11.5%, G+4 7.2%) and peak force (G+2 4.8%, G+3 4.4%, G+4 8.4%). Conclusions: These findings highlight the potential use of rate characteristics from the IMTP as measures of neuromuscular function in elite sport settings, and in particular RFD 100–200 milliseconds due to its higher reliability. Interestingly, peak force collected from the IMTP was not meaningfully suppressed at any time point after elite Australian rules football match play. This suggests that rate characteristics from IMTP may provide more sensitive and valuable insight regarding neuromuscular function recovery kinetics than peak measures.

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Paul W.M. Marshall, Ric Lovell and Jason C. Siegler

Purpose:

Passive muscle tension is increased after damaging eccentric exercise. Hamstring-strain injury is associated with damaging eccentric muscle actions, but no research has examined changes in hamstring passive muscle tension throughout a simulated sport activity. The authors measured hamstring passive tension throughout a 90-min simulated soccer match (SAFT90), including the warm-up period and every 15 min throughout the 90-min simulation.

Methods:

Passive hamstring tension of 15 amateur male soccer players was measured using the instrumented straight-leg-raise test. Absolute torque (Nm) and slope (Nm/°) of the recorded torque-angular position curve were used for data analysis, in addition to total leg range of motion (ROM). Players performed a 15-min prematch warm-up, then performed the SAFT90 including a 15-min halftime rest period.

Results:

Reductions in passive stiffness of 20–50° of passive hip flexion of 22.1−29.2% (P < .05) were observed after the warm-up period. During the SAFT90, passive tension increased in the latter 20% of the range of motion of 10.1−10.9% (P < .05) concomitant to a 4.5% increase in total hamstring ROM (P = .0009).

Conclusions:

The findings of this study imply that hamstring passive tension is reduced after an active warm-up that includes dynamic stretching but does not increase in a pattern suggestive of eccentric induced muscle damage during soccer-specific intermittent exercise. Hamstring ROM and passive tension increases are best explained by improved stretch tolerance.

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Steve Barrett, Adrian W. Midgley, Christopher Towlson, Andrew Garrett, Matt Portas and Ric Lovell

Purpose:

To assess the acute alterations in triaxial accelerometry (PlayerLoad [PLVM]) and its individual axial planes (anteroposterior PlayerLoad [PLAP], mediolateral PlayerLoad [PLML], and vertical PlayerLoad [PLV]) during a standardized 90-min soccer match-play simulation (SAFT90). Secondary aims of the study were to assess the test–retest reliability and anatomical location of the devices.

Methods:

Semiprofessional (n = 5) and university (n = 15) soccer players completed 3 trials (1 familiarization, 2 experimental) of SAFT90. PlayerLoad and its individual planes were measured continuously using micromechanical-electrical systems (MEMS) positioned at the scapulae (SCAP) and near the center of mass (COM).

Results:

There were no between-halves differences in PLVM; however, within-half increases were recorded at the COM, but only during the 1st half at the SCAP. Greater contributions to PLVM were provided by PLV and PLML when derived from the SCAP and COM, respectively. PLVM (COM 1451 ± 168, SCAP 1029 ± 113), PLAP (COM 503 ± 99, SCAP 345 ± 61), PLML (COM 712 ± 124, SCAP 348 ± 61), and PLV (COM 797 ± 184, SCAP 688 ± 124) were significantly greater at the COM than at the SCAP. Moderate and high test–retest reliability was observed for PlayerLoad and its individual planes at both locations (ICC .80–.99).

Conclusions:

PlayerLoad and its individual planes are reliable measures during SAFT90 and detected within-match changes in movement strategy when the unit was placed at the COM, which may have implications for fatigue management. Inferring alterations in lower-limb movement strategies from MEMS units positioned at the SCAP should be undertaken with caution.

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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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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.

Open access

James J. Malone, Ric Lovell, Matthew C. Varley and Aaron J. Coutts

Athlete-tracking devices that include global positioning system (GPS) and microelectrical mechanical system (MEMS) components are now commonplace in sport research and practice. These devices provide large amounts of data that are used to inform decision making on athlete training and performance. However, the data obtained from these devices are often provided without clear explanation of how these metrics are obtained. At present, there is no clear consensus regarding how these data should be handled and reported in a sport context. Therefore, the aim of this review was to examine the factors that affect the data produced by these athlete-tracking devices and to provide guidelines for collecting, processing, and reporting of data. Many factors including device sampling rate, positioning and fitting of devices, satellite signal, and data-filtering methods can affect the measures obtained from GPS and MEMS devices. Therefore researchers are encouraged to report device brand/model, sampling frequency, number of satellites, horizontal dilution of precision, and software/firmware versions in any published research. In addition, details of inclusion/exclusion criteria for data obtained from these devices are also recommended. Considerations for the application of speed zones to evaluate the magnitude and distribution of different locomotor activities recorded by GPS are also presented, alongside recommendations for both industry practice and future research directions. Through a standard approach to data collection and procedure reporting, researchers and practitioners will be able to make more confident comparisons from their data, which will improve the understanding and impact these devices can have on athlete performance.

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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.