The load monitoring in team sports has evolved greatly in recent years and there are currently many methods and tools for training and match load quantification and evaluation aimed to improve the training process, the competition performance and reduce the injury risks. It can be evaluated the internal or external load; physiological and biomechanical; objectively- or subjectively-based; the volume or intensity; pre-, intra- or post- training; and quantify different locomotion parameters (e.g. total distance covered at different speed ranges or the acceleration and deceleration events); the energy expenditure; the heart rate analysis; blood lactate; muscle contractile capacity; muscular asymmetries; hidratation state; sleep quality; muscle temperature; body composition, etc. throughout the use of GPS devices, video-tracking, accelerometers, blood analysis, dynamometers, tensyomiography, etc. A myriad of evaluation tools and devices that are impossible to carry out all of them.
The practitioners of each club have to decide what the monitoring systems and devices to evaluate players. It is logically understood there are daily monitoring systems, like time-motion analysis trough GPS; weekly analysis like heart rate variability (HRV); and others analysis with lower frequency as the spirometry.
As afore mentioned, the main purpose of load monitoring and evaluation in team-sport is facilitate the training process to improve the performance and reduce the injury risks. Therefore, it cannot be: ‘I quantify and assess everything, I do nothing’. The practitioner is not better if measures more parameters. The good practitioner must be able to use the available tools correctly to keep an optimized performance of players. Obviously, in high-level a great number of parameters must be evaluated to keep a good fitness of players in all facets. Therefore, it is important to understand:
WHAT do we want to know? WHEN? And maybe more important, FOR WHAT?
What do we want to know and when?
High-level is very demanding, with a congested competition schedule and it is of paramount importance to keep a good physical capacity of players to avoid increasing the injury incidence. Therefore, the load monitoring and evaluation in team sports must be very precise for knowing exactly what parameters we are managing and how.
An important consideration to work with sportsmen is that we must ‘disturb’ them as little as possible and try to use the monitoring tools that interfere less in their usual practice. Athletes must be focused exclusively on train and compete in the best possible way. Therefore, invasive methods (e.g. blood analysis) should be performed eventually. In addition, many athletes will not want to carry out on a regular basis. Logically there are a recommended frequency or timing for each monitoring tool or test. Although there are parameters that may be more interesting than others, the evaluations or tests that we can make more often will be those that are less annoying for athletes.
We must not forget that the final purpose of load monitoring and evaluation in high-level team sports is to win. Thus, practitioners must keep an optimal physical performance and reduce the injury risks of athletes. In this way, a certain load parameter can be assessed or monitored either when the training session or task goal is the performance optimization, injury prevention or during an injury recovery process.
However, it is important to know exactly what we are monitoring or assessing the parameter for. If we are monitoring the time-motion through GPS devices; why are we assessing a certain parameter? What values do I want to attain? How these attained values may affect the players’ physical performance? How will affect to my consequent decision taking? There is a recent study about how to manage the decision taking in the monitoring process and how the sport scientist can support this process (1). This is an interesting topic for discussion that will be soon posted on the Blog. For instance, the evaluation of players’ body composition with anthropometry.
The literature shows that the adequate body-fat percentage should not be higher than 10-12% (2–4) because it will negatively affect the players’ performance such as shorter high-intensity running distance or the early onset of fatigue, among others, which will consequently increase the injury risk. If the body-fat of player is higher than 10-12%, the player will undergo an extra training program in addition to a specific nutritional plan to reduce the body-fat percentage. It is more difficult to find people with a lower percentage than the benchmark but lower values than 3-5% might be dangerous. With this example, I know exactly what I want to measure, what values I am looking for, and how I will act accordingly.
On the other hand, I personally believe that it is of paramount important to explain player the reason for they are been monitored or assessed and make them understand that it is to improve their physical performance.
The following are the most commonly used monitoring parameters in team sports, the assessment method, goal and tools required to carry them out, differentiating between internal and external load parameters.
Table 1 list the most commonly used internal-load monitoring parameters in the research.
|Heart rate||HR monitor||On training tasks or specific tests.||Assessing the cardiorespiratory capacity, intensity, fatigue||HR reserve is more accurate than HRmax|
|HR Variability||HR monitor||Test: once a week before training||Detect fatigue and overtraining||Fasting state|
|Post-activity||CR10 Börg Scale||30’ post-training||Players’ subjective effort perception||RPE-TL (RPE x min of session)Acute:chronic workload ratio|
|Wellness – predisposition prior to training (5)||Subjective 1-3 scale||15’ before training||Player’s physical feeling before training||Immediate decisions|
|Wellness – Questionnaire (6)||RESTQ-S Questionnaire||Weekly. At the end of microcycle||Detailed info of player’s psycho-physical state||Acute and chronic load|
|Tensiomiography||tensiomiographer||*Punctual||Assessing of muscle contraction characteristics||Request specific capabilities|
|CK||Blood analysis||*Punctual/periodic||Marker of muscle fiber damage||Perform the day after activity|
|Lactate||Instantaneous blood sample (finger, ear lobe)||Periodic||Reflecting training status||3 min after activity|
|Body composition||Skinfolds and diameters||Periodic||Knowing the total muscle and fat mass||ISAK protocol|
There is more variability to monitor the external load in team sports according to the specific sport as it will depend of the kind of locomotion, the game-field size or the demanded efforts, among others. The external-load parameters most common are:
Analysis of locomotion activity
- Tools: GPS or video-tracking
- Frequency: daily (during the activity)
- Objectives: knowing the type of efforts of athletes (distances covered, type of actions, etc).
- Considerations: take into account the positional and individualized differences, contextual variables.
Strength and muscular power
- Tools: dynamometer, RM, power test, etc.
- Frequency: daily/periodic
- Objectives: quantify the developed strength by player in different tasks.
- Considerations: take into account the positional and individualized differences, contextual variables.
Today there are many tools and load assessing methods for sportsmen. Although this article shows some of the most commonly used load parameters in high-level team sports, each practitioner should choose the most adequate methods and tools for him and players according to his needs, knowledge and possibilities. As a S&C coach who I admire and has worked on some of the world best soccer teams once said:
‘The best S&C Coach is able to doing his job properly ‘undetected’, passing unnoticed.’
Very insightful words. ‘Do a proper job’ is referred to program and manage the training load to optimize the players’ performance and decrease the injury rate.
Personally, I believe that the S&C Coach should not want to be protagonist, because HE IS NOT. The player is the protagonist. The S&C Coach work by and for the athlete and the good professional is who get to keep players available to the coach in every match with an optimized physical condition and confidence ready for competition. Therefore, the S&C Coach prepare players to train in the best conditions and the coach then decides the most adequate players for each match. Finally, it is necessary to keep a good collaboration and communication between all the staff (technical-tactical, physical, medical) to achieve ‘harmony’ in the training process of athletes.
- Robertson S. Man & machine: Adaptive tools for the contemporary performance analyst. J Sports Sci. 2020; 00(00): 1–9.
- Fernández Paneque S, Alvero Cruz JR. La Producción Científica En Cineantropometría: Datos De Referencia De Composición Corporal Y Somatotipo the Scientific Production in Kinanthropometry : Reference Data of Body Composition and Somatotype. Arch Med Del Deport. 2006; XXIII(111): 17–35.
- Foster C, Florhaug JA, Franklin J, Gottschall L, Hrovatin LA, Parker S, et al. A new approach to monitoring exercise training. J strength Cond Res. 2001; 15(1): 109–15.
- Owen AL, Forsyth JJ, Wong DP, Dellal A, Connelly SP, Chamari K. Heart Rate–Based Training Intensity and Its Impact on Injury Incidence Among Elite-Level Professional Soccer Players. J Strength Cond Res. 2015; 29(6): 1705–12.
- Roca A. El proceso de entrenamiento en el fútbol. Metodología de trabajo en un equipo profesional (FC Barcelona). Preparación futbolística. Barcelona, España: MC Sports; 2008. 1–72 p.
- González-Boto R, Salguero A, Tuero C, Márquez S, Kellmann M. SPANISH ADAPTATION AND ANALYSIS BY STRUCTURAL EQUATION MODELING OF AN INSTRUMENT FOR MONITORING OVERTRAINING: THE RECOVERY-STRESS QUESTIONNAIRE (RESTQ-SPORT). Soc Behav Personal an Int J. 2008; 36(5): 635–50.
Note: although not many studies have been referenced in the text, all written content has been developed based on years of scientist reading about the subject matter.
S&C Coach | Rehab Therapist | Sport Scientist
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This article has been made based on the references showed, other studies reviewed but not showed and according to the experience and knowledge of the author. In this way, it may include subjective ideas and opinions not contrasted in the research.
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