Latest research in football - week 33 - 2019

As previous literature updates, I have performed a PubCrawler search looking for football articles in NCBI Medline (PubMed) and GenBank databases.

Following studies were retrieved for this week:

#1 Validity and reliability of speed tests used in soccer: A systematic review
Reference: PLoS One. 2019 Aug 14;14(8):e0220982. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220982. eCollection 2019.
Authors: Altmann S, Ringhof S, Neumann R, Woll A, Rumpf MC
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Summary: Speed is an important prerequisite in soccer. Therefore, a large number of tests have been developed aiming to investigate several speed skills relevant to soccer. This systematic review aimed to examine the validity and reliability of speed tests used in adult soccer players. A systematic search was performed according to the PRISMA guidelines. Studies were included if they investigated speed tests in adult soccer players and reported validity (construct and criterion) or reliability (intraday and interday) data. The tests were categorized into linear-sprint, repeated-sprint, change-of-direction sprint, agility, and tests incorporating combinations of these skills. In total, 90 studies covering 167 tests were included. Linear-sprint (n = 67) and change-of-direction sprint (n = 60) were studied most often, followed by combinations of the aforementioned (n = 21) and repeated-sprint tests (n = 15). Agility tests were examined fewest (n = 4). Mainly based on construct validity studies, acceptable validity was reported for the majority of the tests in all categories, except for agility tests, where no validity study was identified. Regarding intraday and interday reliability, ICCs>0.75 and CVs<3.0% were evident for most of the tests in all categories. These results applied for total and average times. In contrast, measures representing fatigue such as percent decrement scores indicated inconsistent validity findings. Regarding reliability, ICCs were 0.11-0.49 and CVs were 16.8-51.0%. Except for agility tests, several tests for all categories with acceptable levels of validity and high levels of reliability for adult soccer players are available. Caution should be given when interpreting fatigue measures, e.g., percent decrement scores. Given the lack of accepted gold-standard tests for each category, researchers and practitioners may base their test selection on the broad database provided in this systematic review. Future research should pay attention to the criterion validity examining the relationship between test results and match parameters as well as to the development and evaluation of soccer-specific agility tests.

#2 Correlation of Fiber-Type Composition and Sprint Performance in Youth Soccer Players
Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Aug 8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003320. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Metaxas T, Mandroukas A, Michailidis Y, Koutlianos N, Christoulas K, Ekblom B
Summary: The aim of this study was to examine the correlation between muscle fiber type and sprint performance in elite young soccer players of different age groups of the same team. Twenty-eight young players participated in this study (group U15, n = 8; group U13, n = 9; and group U11, n = 11). Anthropometric assessments, acceleration (10 m), and Bangsbo modified sprint test (30 m) were performed. Muscle biopsies were obtained from the vastus lateralis, and after that, fiber-type composition was determined by immunohistochemistry. No significant correlations were found between the sprint test and muscle fiber distribution for the groups U13 and U11 (p > 0.05). Also, no correlations were found between cross-sectional areas in the types of fibers with the sprint test in all groups (p > 0.05). A positive correlation was found between type I fibers and the performance in the acceleration test (10 m) (r = 0.77, p < 0.05) was found only in group U15 and a negative correlation between type IIA fibers and the performance in the acceleration test (10 m) (r = -0.89, p < 0.05). The correlations were observed only in group U15, which may indicate that the duration and the intensity of the soccer systematic training can affect the plasticity of the muscle fibers. Specific soccer training in youth is one of the factors that can affect fiber-type plasticity. The specific training programs and status of U15 are more intensive, and the exercises are oriented more to improve physical fitness.

#3 Biomarker Response to a Competitive Season in Division I Female Soccer Players
Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Aug 8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003264. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Walker AJ, McFadden BA, Sanders DJ, Rabideau MM, Hofacker ML, Arent SM
Summary: The purpose of this study was to evaluate effects of training load (TL) on performance and biomarkers of health, performance, and recovery in Division I female soccer players throughout a competitive season. Participants (N = 25, Mage = 20 ± 1.1 years) were monitored before the start of preseason and every 4-weeks thereafter (T1-T5). A battery of performance tests was administered before the start of preseason (P1) and end-of-season (P2), including body composition (percent body fat [%BF], fat free mass [FFM], and fat mass), vertical jump (VJ), and V[Combining Dot Above]O2max. Blood draws were conducted at every time point (T1-T5) to assess free and total cortisol (CORTF and CORTT), prolactin (PRL), T3, IL-6, creatine kinase (CK), sex-hormone binding globulin, omega-3 (n-3FA), vitamin-D (Vit-D), iron (Fe), hematocrit (HcT), ferritin (Fer), percent saturation (%Sat), and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC). Daily exercise energy expenditure (EEE) and TL were determined. There were significant declines in V[Combining Dot Above]O2max, VJ, weight, and %BF from P1-P2 (p < 0.05) with no significant differences in FFM. Training load and EEE significantly decreased from T1-T3 (p < 0.05). Significant increases were seen in CORTT, CORTF, PRL, T3, IL-6, CK, and TIBC throughout the season (p < 0.05). Significant decreases were seen in n-3FA, Fe, Fer, %Sat, and Hct throughout the season (p < 0.05). Female athletes experience significant physiological changes following high TL and EEE associated with preseason and appear to be further exacerbated by the cumulative effects of the season. Unique insights provided by biomarkers enable athletes and coaches to be cognizant of the physiological changes that are occurring throughout the season.

#4 Where to go: Computational and visual what-if analyses in soccer
Reference: J Sports Sci. 2019 Aug 11:1-9. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2019.1652541. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Stein M, Seebacher D, Marcelino R, Schreck T, Grossniklaus M, Keim DA, Janetzko H
Summary: To prepare their teams for upcoming matches, analysts in professional soccer watch and manually annotate up to three matches a day. When annotating matches, domain experts try to identify and improve suboptimal movements based on intuition and professional experience. The high amount of matches needing to be analysed manually result in a tedious and time-consuming process, and results may be subjective. We propose an automatic approach for the realisation of effective region-based what-if analyses in soccer. Our system covers the automatic detection of region-based faulty movement behaviour, as well as the automatic suggestion of possible improved alternative movements. As we show, our approach effectively supports analysts and coaches investigating matches by speeding up previously time-consuming work. We enable domain experts to include their domain knowledge in the analysis process by allowing to interactively adjust suggested improved movement, as well as its implications on region control. We demonstrate the usefulness of our proposed approach via an expert study with three invited domain experts, one being head coach from the first Austrian soccer league. As our results show that experts most often agree with the suggested player movement (83%), our proposed approach enhances the analytical capabilities in soccer and supports a more efficient analysis.

#4 Relative Age Effect in the Sport Environment. Role of Physical Fitness and Cognitive Function in Youth Soccer Players
Reference: Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Aug 8;16(16). pii: E2837. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16162837.
Authors: Huertas F, Ballester R, Gines HJ, Hamidi AK, Moratal C, Lupiáñez J
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Summary: The need to achieve short-term competitive outcomes in sports may influence the emergence of talent selection strategies, which could bias individuals' opportunities. The present study aimed to further explore the relative age effect (RAE), a phenomenon that strongly influences youth sport development. The RAE refers to a disproportionately high percentage in sport teams of athletes born early in the selection year. Our primary focus was to explore whether the RAE is supported by behavioral evidence in favor of better fitness-and especially cognitive-attentional functioning-of early as compared to late-born players. A cross-sectional study was conducted on 105 young athletes (u10, n = 52; 9.8 ± 0.3 years old, and u12, n = 53; 11.8 ± 0.2 years old) attending two youth elite soccer academies. Attentional functioning, anthropometrics, physical fitness, and game intelligence were compared across two Age Groups (u10 vs. u12) and four Birth Quarters (BQ1-BQ4). The RAE was statistically significant (p < 0.001), showing that about 50% of participants were born in the first quarter and 75% were born in the first half of the year. More importantly, U12 players outperformed u10 players in measures that were related to sustained attention (with faster and less variable responses; p < 0.001 and p < 0.05, respectively), and in all anthropometric measures (p < 0.001), physical-fitness capacities (p < 0.05). Crucially, neither the attentional measures, game intelligence, anthropometrics, nor physical fitness were affected by BQ (all ps > 0.1 and BF10 between 0.08 and 0.6, showing strong evidence for the null hypothesis). The present findings suggest that the early selection process that occurs during scouting in youth soccer academies offsets the age-related differences that could be anticipated in cognitive skills, anthropometrics, and physical abilities, due to growth and maturation. These birth asymmetries could lead teams to disregard later maturation athletes and athletes born later in the year inducing a larger dropout of those players with the consequent reduction in the talent pool.

#5 Similar risk of ACL graft revision for alpine skiers, football and handball players: the graft revision rate is influenced by age and graft choice
Reference: Br J Sports Med. 2019 Aug 9. pii: bjsports-2018-100020. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100020. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Ekeland A, Engebretsen L, Fenstad AM, Heir S
Summary: The risk of graft revision following ACL reconstruction may depend on the sport type the individuals are engaged in. The purpose of this study was to report the ACL graft revision rate in alpine skiers, football and handball players. Primary ACL reconstructions and graft revision data from 2004 to December 2016 were obtained from the Norwegian Cruciate Ligament Registry. The graft survival rates were calculated for individuals in each of the three sport types, for bone patellar tendon bone (BPTB) and hamstring tendons (HT) grafts separately, and related to age at primary operation and sex. A total of 711 grafts in 14 201 primary ACL reconstructions were revised (5.0%) after median 6 years, 3.8% in alpine skiers, 5.0% in soccer and 6.1% in handball players (p<0.001). Adjusted Cox regression showed similar ACL graft survival rates in the three groups. The HR for graft revision was 5 times higher for individuals aged ≤18 years than for those aged ≥35 years (p<0.001). The corresponding HR for graft type was 1.8 times higher for HT than for BPTB grafts (p<0.001), but 2.8 times higher for individuals aged ≤18 years (p<0.001). The 12 years survival of BPTB grafts was 96% compared with 93% for HT grafts (p <0.001). The revision rate for ACL grafts was similar among alpine skiers, football and handball players, and the results support the use of BPTB grafts in young athletes with closed growth zones in the knee.

#6 Functional Deficits in the Wrist and Finger Joints of Goalkeepers After 20 Years of Playing Recreational Football
Reference: Sportverletz Sportschaden. 2019 Aug;33(3):142-148. doi: 10.1055/a-0884-3334. Epub 2019 Aug 16.
Authors: Hilber F, Wiesenberg A, Kerschbaum M, Ernstberger A, Worlicek M, Nerlich M, Prantl L, Koch M, Krutsch V, Krutsch W
Summary: Long-term damage in the hip, knee and ankle joints of football players has been thoroughly discussed in the literature. Compared with outfield players, however, goalkeepers sustain injuries to the upper extremities five times more often. There is a lack of studies on long-term functional damage to the wrist and finger joints of football goalkeepers. The hypothesis was that repetitive micro-traumas and injuries lead to degenerative diseases in goalkeepers after 20 years of playing recreational soccer.  The personal histories, injury histories and clinical examination findings of the wrist and finger joints of 27 goalkeepers were compared with the findings obtained in a control group of outfield players. Goalkeepers were significantly more restricted in finger movement (p < 0.05) and experienced more pain and swelling (p < 0.05) as well as higher levels of instability (p < 0.05) in the wrist and finger joints than outfield players. Medical history and clinical findings indicate deficits in the hands of soccer goalkeepers and a high prevalence of joint and ligament injuries sustained to the fingers over the course of their sports activity. This necessitates specific strategies in the future to prevent injuries and long-term posttraumatic deficits.

#7 Editorial: Fatigue and Recovery in Football
Reference: Sports (Basel). 2019 Aug 13;7(8). pii: E192. doi: 10.3390/sports7080192.
Authors: Clarke N, Noon M
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#8 Play-by-Play Network Analysis in Football
Reference: Front Psychol. 2019 Jul 25;10:1738. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01738. eCollection 2019.
Authors: Korte F, Link D, Groll J, Lames M
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Summary: This study identifies dominant and intermediary players in football by applying a play-by-play social network analysis (SNA) on 70 professional matches from the 1. and 2. German Bundesliga during the 2017/2018 season. SNA provides a quantification of the complex interaction patterns between players in team sports. So far, the individual contributions and roles of players in football have only been studied at match-level considering the overall passing of a team. In order to consider the real structure of football, a play-by-play network analysis is needed that reflects actual interplay. Moreover, a distinction between plays of certain characteristics is important to qualify different interaction phases. As it is often impossible to calculate well known network metrics such as betweenness on play-level, new adequate metrics are required. Therefore, flow betweenness is introduced as a new playmaker indicator on play-level and computed alongside flow centrality. The data on passing and the position of players was provided by the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and gathered through a semi-automatic multiple-camera tracking system. Central defenders are identified as dominant and intermediary players, however, mostly in unsuccessful plays. Offensive midfielders are most involved and defensive midfielders are the main intermediary players in successful plays. Forward are frequently involved in successful plays but show negligible playmaker status. Play-by-play network analysis facilitates a better understanding of the role of players in football interaction.

#9 A comparative study of core musculature endurance and strength between soccer players with and without lower extremity sprain and strain injury
Reference: Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019 Jul;14(4):525-536.
Authors: Abdallah AA, Mohamed NA, Hegazy MA
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Summary: Lower extremity sprain and strain injury constitutes a large percentage of lower extremity injuries experienced by soccer players. Yet, very limited data exists on the association between core strength and endurance and this injury. The purpose of this study was to compare core muscle endurance and hip muscle strength between soccer players who experienced non-contact lower extremity sprain and/or strain injury during their season and those who did not. Additionally, the frequency of injury was correlated with core muscle endurance and hip strength, and endurance was used for predicting the risk for injury. Twenty-one (35.59%) athletes experienced non-contact lower extremity sprain and/or strain injury during the season. Fifty-nine male athletes (mean age 20.92 ± 4.08 years, mass 77.34 ± 12.02 kg and height 1.79 ± 0.06m) were tested. Prior to the start of the season, prone-bridge, side-bridge, trunk flexion and horizontal back extension hold times were recorded for endurance assessment and peak hip abductor and external rotator isokinetic torques for strength assessment. Prone-bridge and side-bridge hold times were significantly longer in the non-injured players when compared with the times of the injured players (p=0.043 & 0.008 for the prone-bridge and side-bridge, respectively). There were significant negative correlations between the frequency of injury and both prone-bridge (r=-0.324, p=0.007) and side-bridge (r=-0.385, p=0.003) hold times. Logistic regression analysis revealed that side-bridge hold time was a significant predictor of injury (OR=0.956, CI=0.925-0.989). Soccer players with non-contact lower extremity sprain and/or strain have less core endurance than non-injured players. Reduced core endurance is associated with increased incidence of injury. Improving side-bridge hold time, specifically, may reduce the risk for injury.

#10 High Risk of Further ACL Injury in a 10-Year Follow-up Study of ACL-Reconstructed Soccer Players in the Swedish National Knee Ligament Registry
Reference: Arthroscopy. 2019 Aug 19. pii: S0749-8063(19)30500-6. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2019.05.052. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Sandon A, Engström B, Forssblad M
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Summary: To follow up on soccer players 10 years after a primary anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction to find out how many players returned to play soccer, what influenced their decision, and if there are any differences in additional ACL injuries (graft failure and/or contralateral ACL injury) between those who returned to play and those who did not. The study cohort consists of 1661 soccer players from the Swedish National Knee Ligament Registry. A questionnaire was sent to each player regarding their return to play and additional knee injuries that may have occurred 10 years after their primary ACL. The results are based on the 684 responders. Data such as age, sex, surgical procedural data, associated injuries, patient-reported outcome measures, and additional knee surgeries were collected from the registry. In this study, 51% returned to play soccer. For those who did not return to play, the primary reason was knee related (65.4% of the cases). The most common knee-related reasons for not returning were pain and/or instability (50%; n = 109), followed by fear of reinjury (32%; n = 69). Players who return to soccer have a significantly higher risk of additional ACL injury. Of the players who returned to play soccer, 28.7% (odds ratio [OR] 2.3, P < .001) had additional ACL injury, 9.7% (OR 2.9, P < .001) had a graft failure and 20.6% (OR 2.1, P < .001) had a contralateral ACL injury. Players that return to soccer have a significantly higher risk of sustaining further ACL injury. Only half of the soccer players return to play after ACL reconstruction, and in two-thirds of those who did not return, the reason was knee related. The high risk of sustaining additional knee injury is of serious concern to the player's future knee health and should be considered when deciding on a return to play.

#11 Phase Angle is Moderately Associated with Short-term Maximal Intensity Efforts in Soccer Players
Reference: Int J Sports Med. 2019 Aug 22. doi: 10.1055/a-0969-2003. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Nabuco HCG, Silva AM, Sardinha LB, Rodrigues FB, Tomeleri CM, Ravagnani FCP, Cyrino ES, Ravagnani CFC
Summary: This study examined the relationship between PhA and short-term maximal intensity efforts in soccer players, and was conducted in 99 male soccer players, ages 19-36 years. Bioelectrical impedance was used to assess body fat, fat free mass (FFM) and PhA (phase angle). Running Anaerobic Sprint Test (RAST) was used to evaluate physical performance. Food consumption was assessed through the 24-hour dietary recall method. Pearson correlation and multiple regressions were used for statistical analysis. Phase angle exhibited a positive relationship with maximum power (β=0.66; P<0.001), even after adjustment for the co-variables FFM and body fat (β=0.52; P=0.02). Phase angle was inversely related with fatigue index (β=- 0.61; P=0.04), even after adjusting for FFM (β=- 0.70; P=0.020). Our results indicated that independently of FFM and body fat, PhA was inversely associated with fatigue index and positively related with maximum power, revealing the PhA appeared as a valid predictor of fatigue.

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