The effect of age on between-match physical performance variability in professional soccer players

 In sports science

Lorenzo-Martínez M, Rey E, & Padrón-Cabo, A. The effect of age on between-match physical performance variability in professional soccer players. Research in Sports Medicine, 2019.

  • DOI: 10.1080/15438627.2019.1680985

Description

Introduction: It has been shown that players’ work-rate depends on multiple factors such as playing position, playing formation, competitive standard, match location, quality of opposition, match status, the moment of the season or recovery between matches. Identifying the variability of performance provides useful information about the physical requirements of players within games. This variability could be influenced by some of the match contextual factors above mentioned, but players’ performance also showed inherent variations between matches. However, this age-related variability has not been investigated in soccer players.

Purpose: to analyze the effect of age on between-match variability of physical performance in professional soccer players.

Method: Data were collected from 787 professional soccer players. All of them played in the first (n = 382) or second (n = 405) division of Spanish league (La Liga) during the 2017–2018 season and aged between 18 and 38 years old. As independent variable, players were classified using a k-means cluster analysis into six different groups according to their age: G1 (≤22.5 years), G2 (22.6–25.1 years), G3 (25.2–27.5 years), G4 (27.6–30.1 years), G5 (30.2–33.1 years) and G6 (≥33.2 years).

Results:

– The players from G1 and G2 had significantly lower CVs than G6 players in HIR (ES: 0.57 to 0.49, medium and small, respectively), sprinting (ES: 0.70 to 0.48, medium and small), number of HIR (ES: 0.56 to 0.42, medium and small) and number of sprints (ES: 0.75 to 0.60, medium).

– G1 players showed significantly lower CVs than G4 players for all high-intensity variables: HIR (ES: 0.44, small), sprinting (ES: 0.52, medium), number of HIR (ES: 0.40, small) and number of sprints (ES: 0.47, small).

– G1 players also showed significantly lower CVs than G5 players for sprinting (ES: 0.57, medium) and number of sprints (ES: 0.44, small).

– G2 players showed significantly lower CVs than G4 players for HIR (ES: 0.34, small) and lower than G5 players for sprinting (ES: 0.34, small).

– G3 players showed significantly lower CVs than G6 players for sprinting (ES: 0.44, small) and number of sprints (ES: 0.52, medium).

Take homes messages

FSI team considered that a possible explanation for the higher CVs in older players (G4, G5 & G6) could be the use of self-pacing strategies in order to avoid fatigue and adapt to the requirements of each match.

– An analysis considering variables such as player positions and physical fitness are necessary to confirm the effect on age in between-match variability.

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