To quantify the mean daily changes in training and match load and any parallel changes in indicators of morningmeasured fatigue across in-season training weeks in elite soccer players.
After each training session and match (TL), session ratings of perceived exertion (s-RPE) were recorded to calculate overall session load (RPE-TL) in 29 English Premier League players from the same team. Morning ratings of fatigue, sleep quality, and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), as well as submaximal exercise heart rate (HRex), postexercise heart-rate recovery (HRR%), and heart-rate variability (HRV) were recorded before match day and 1, 2, and 4 d postmatch. Data were collected for a median duration of 3 wk (range 1–13) and reduced to a typical weekly cycle including no midweek match and a weekend match day. Data were analyzed using withinsubject linear mixed models.
RPE-TL was approximately 600 arbitrary units (AU) (95% confidence interval 546–644) higher on match day than following day (P < .001). RPE-TL progressively decreased by »60 AU per day over the 3 days before a match (P < .05). Morning-measured fatigue, sleep quality, and DOMS tracked the changes in RPE-TL, being 35–40% worse on postmatch day vs prematch day (P < .001). Perceived fatigue, sleep quality, and DOMS improved by 17–26% from postmatch day to 3 d postmatch, with further smaller (7%–14%) improvements occurring between 4 d postmatch and prematch day (P < .01). There were no substantial or statistically significant changes in HRex, HRR%, or HRV over the weekly cycle (P > .05).
Morning-measured ratings of fatigue, sleep quality, and DOMS are clearly more sensitive than HR-derived indices to the daily fluctuations in session load experienced by elite soccer players in a standard in-season week.
Thorpe, Strudwick, Drust, and Gregson are with the Research Inst for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK. Atkinson is with the Health and Social Care Inst, Teesside University, Middlesborough, UK. Buchheit is with the Performance Dept, Paris Saint Germain Football Club, Paris, France.