Objective measures of recovery from football match play could be useful for assessing athletes’ readiness to train, if sensitive to preceding match load.
To identify the sensitivity of countermovement-jump (CMJ) performance and concentration of salivary testosterone and cortisol relative to elite football match load.
CMJ performance and salivary hormones were measured in 18 elite football players before (27, 1 h) and after (0.5, 18, 42, 66, 90 h) 3 consecutive matches. Match load was determined via accelerometer-derived PlayerLoad and divided into tertiles. Sensitivity of CMJ performance and hormone concentrations to match load was quantified with t statistics and magnitude-based inferences (change in mean as % ± 90% confidence interval) derived with a linear mixed model.
Jump height was reduced in medium and high load at 0.5 h (10% ± 7% and 16% ± 8%) and 18 h (7% ± 4% and 9% ± 5%) postmatch. There was a 12% ± 7% reduction in ratio of flight time to contraction time (FT:CT) in high load at 0.5 h post, with reductions in medium and high load at 18 h. Reductions in FT:CT persisted at later postmatch time points than changes in jump height. Increased cortisol (range 55–165%) and testosterone (range 17–20%) were observed in all match loads at 0.5 h post, with individual variability thereafter.
Measures of CMJ performance and hormonal concentrations were sensitive to levels of A League football match load. Although jump height was reduced immediately postmatch, FT:CT provided a more sensitive measure of recovery. Football match play induces an acute hormonal response with substantial individual variability thereafter.