Latest research in football - week 18 - 2020

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 Soccer-Specific Agility: Reliability of a Newly Developed Test and Correlates of Performance
Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Apr 21. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003635. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Altmann S, Neumann R, Ringhof S, Rumpf MC, Woll A
Summary: The purpose of this study was to examine the reliability of a newly developed soccer-specific agility test and to determine the correlation of different performance parameters with overall agility performance as measured by the total time. Twenty-two amateur soccer players (age, 25.1 ± 4.0 years) completed a newly developed agility test on 2 separate occasions. The test required the players to conduct 2 changes of direction, one in a preplanned manner and one in response to a stimulus that was provided by a live tester who performed different soccer-specific passing movements. Regarding reliability, very large Pearson's r and intraclass correlation coefficient values were obtained for the total time and the movement time, with moderate and large-to-very large values being evident for the response time and the decision-making time, respectively. The usefulness to detect moderate performance changes was rated as "good" for the total time, the response time, and the movement time. The decision-making time was rated as "OK." The movement time showed a very large relationship with overall agility performance as measured by the total time, while the response time and the decision-making time showed small to moderate relationships. In conclusion, the newly developed soccer-specific agility test is a reliable tool to assess the agility performance of soccer players and can be used by coaches and researchers to detect moderate performance changes. Because physical aspects, represented by the movement time, showed the greatest influence on total agility performance, they are advised to be included in soccer-specific agility training programs of amateur players.

#2 Seasonal Changes in the Sprint Acceleration Force-Velocity Profile of Elite Male Soccer Players
Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Feb 14. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003513. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Jiménez-Reyes P, Garcia-Ramos A, Párraga-Montilla JA, Morcillo-Losa JA, Cuadrado-Peñafiel V, Castaño-Zambudio A, Samozino P, Morin JB
Summary: This study aimed to describe the seasonal changes in the sprint force-velocity (Fv) profile of professional soccer players. The sprint Fv profile of 21 male soccer players competing in the first division of the Spanish soccer league was evaluated 6 times: preseason 1 (September 2015), in-season 1 (November 2015), in-season 2 (January 2016), in-season 3 (March 2016), in-season 4 (May 2016), and preseason 2 (August 2016). No specific sprint capabilities stimuli other than those induced by soccer training were applied. The following variables were calculated from the velocity-time data recorded with a radar device during an unloaded sprint: maximal force (F0), maximal velocity (v0), Fv slope, maximal power (Pmax), decrease in the ratio of horizontal-to-resultant force (DRF), and maximal ratio of horizontal-to-resultant force (RFpeak). F0 (effect size [ES] range = 0.83-0.93), Pmax (ES range = 0.97-1.05), and RFpeak (ES range = 0.56-1.13) were higher at the in-seasons 2 and 3 compared with both preseasons (p ≤ 0.006). No significant differences were observed for v0, Fv slope, and DRF (p ≥ 0.287). These results suggest that relevant Fv profile variables may be compromised (F0 more compromised than v0) toward the end of the competitive season when specific sprint stimuli are not systematically applied.

#3 Reliability of Change of Direction and Agility Assessments in Youth Soccer Players
Reference: Sports (Basel). 2020 Apr 18;8(4). pii: E51. doi: 10.3390/sports8040051.
Authors: Dugdale JH, Sanders D, Hunter AM
Summary: Considering the vast physical and neural developments experienced throughout adolescence, the reliability of physical performance may vary in youth populations. This study aimed to examine the reliability of change of direction (COD) and agility tests in youth soccer players. Altogether, 86 youth soccer players, aged 13.6 ± 2.0 years, volunteered to participate. Data were collected from a modified 505 COD test (m505COD) and the Y-sprint drill in both pre-planned (Y-SprintPRE) and reactive (Y-SprintREACT) conditions during 2 sessions, 7 days apart. Anthropometric data including body mass, standing stature, and sitting height were also collected. COD and agility tests demonstrated good reliability (ICC = 0.81-0.91; CV = 1.2-2.0; d = 0.00-0.31; p < 0.01) for our entire sample. However, we observed a small negative relationship between age and intersession differences for the Y-SprintPRE (r = -0.28; p = 0.04), and moderate negative relationships between both age (r = -0.41; p < 0.01), and maturity offset (r = -0.39; p < 0.01) for the Y-SprintREACT. Although the COD and agility tests adopted within this study possess good intersession reliability, we observed greater intersession differences for younger and less mature individuals. We suggest that while COD and agility tests may provide meaningful objective data for monitoring the development of youth soccer players, these tests should be used with caution when evaluating younger, more immature athletes.

#4 Influence of playing position and laterality in centripetal force and changes of direction in elite soccer players
Reference: PLoS One. 2020 Apr 23;15(4):e0232123. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0232123. eCollection 2020.
Authors: Granero-Gil P, Gómez-Carmona CD, Bastida-Castillo A, Rojas-Valverde D, de la Cruz E, Pino-Ortega J
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Summary: The purpose of the present study was to: (a) assess centripetal force (CentF) and changes of direction (COD) in elite soccer players according to playing position (central defender, CD; lateral defender, LD; central midfielder, CM; lateral midfielder, LM; forward, FW), laterality (right-footed vs. left-footed) and field zone (central vs. lateral), and (b) analyze the relationship between anthropometric characteristics (age, weight, height, body mass and fat mass) and non-linear locomotion workload. Thirty professional soccer players (age: 26.57±5.56 years) were tracked during the 2017-2018 season during friendly, national and international matches (38 total games) using inertial measurement devices. CentF and COD were the variables extracted for analysis. A one-way ANOVA was used for playing position comparison, a t-test for laterality and field zone, and Pearson's correlation coefficient to analyze relationships between anthropometric characteristics and dependent variables. There were differences by playing position in COD (556.33-to-412.18), R20COD (484.36-to-354.81) and R60COD (48.38-to-38.61) (p < .01; ωp2 = 0.03-to-0.05; CD>CM>LD>LM = FW); in CODHIA (49.75-to-37.11), R20CODHIA (16.04-to-9.11) and R60CODHIA (10.64-to-9.11) (p < .01; ωp2 = 0.03-to-0.07; CM>FW>LM>CD = LD); in CODSPRINT (14.56-to-8.40) and R20CODSPRINT (3.29-to-1.40) (p < .01; ωp2 = 0.03-to-0.04; FW = LM = CM>CD = LD); and in CentFMAX both in clockwise (992.04-to-902.09N) and counterclockwise (999.24-to-872.61N) directions (p < .02; ωp2 = 0.02-to-0.07; FW = CD>CM = LM = LD). The highest values of counterclockwise CentF were performed by left-footed players in the central zone (p < .001; d = 0.71-to-1.44) and clockwise CentF by right-footed players (p < .001; d = 0.04-to-0.55) in the lateral field zone. Moderate correlations were found between age, body mass and high intensity/sprints COD and repeated COD ability (p < .05; r = 0.235-to-0.383). Therefore, team staff should consider anthropometric characteristics, playing position, laterality and field zone to individualize training workload related to non-linear locomotion in soccer.

#5 Seasonal Repeated Sprint Ability With Change of Direction Variations in U17 and U20 Elite Brazilian Soccer Players: A Comparative Study
Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2020 May;34(5):1431-1439. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002361.
Authors: Jorge G, Garrafoli MT, Cal Abad CC
Summary: This study aimed to describe seasonal variations of repeated sprint with change-of-direction ability in young elite Brazilian soccer players. The Bangsbo sprint test (BST) was performed by 21 under-17 (U17) (176.9 cm; 68.2 kg) and 22 under-20 (U20) athletes (178.7 cm, 74.4 kg) at the start, middle, and end of the season. The fatigue index (FI) was calculated in seconds and in percentage of decrease (%D) for comparisons. Both age categories showed higher BST performance in the middle and end compared with the start of the season (p ≤ 0.05). The U20 players performed better at the start than the U17 players. The U17 soccer players showed higher FI at the start and in the middle in comparison with the U20 players (p ≤ 0.05). They also showed lower FI at the end of the season in comparison with the start and middle of the season (p ≤ 0.05). The U20 players showed significant reductions in the FI in the middle and at the end in comparison with the start of the season (p ≤ 0.05). Only the U17 soccer players showed lower %D at the end in comparison with the start of the season (p ≤ 0.05). To summarize, both U17 and U20 players performed BST poorly at the start, increased the BST performance until the middle, and maintained the BST performance until the end of the season. A difference in the magnitude of enhancement was observed between U17 and U20 soccer players, which was found to be dependent on the initial values. Finally, the mathematical model to calculate the FI requires caution.

#6 The feasibility and impact of instrument-assisted manual therapy (IAMT) for the lower back on the structural and functional properties of the lumbar area in female soccer players: a randomised, placebo-controlled pilot study design
Reference: Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2020 Apr 16;6:47. doi: 10.1186/s40814-020-00592-3. eCollection 2020.
Authors: Weber P, Graf C, Klingler W, Weber N, Schleip R
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Summary: Myofascial (self-)treatments, such as foam rollers to therapeutic instruments in manual therapy, are utilized increasingly in prevention and therapy in healthy people, athletes, and patients suffering from chronic back pain. However, there is limited knowledge about the effectiveness of treatment and the underlying mechanisms of myofascial therapies, especially for instrument-assisted manual therapy (IAMT). Therefore, this pilot study will investigate the feasibility and impact of IAMT for the lumbar area compared with heat application and placebo treatment as a basis for calculating the sample size for further full studies. The primary outcomes will be a critical analysis of the feasibility of the measurement protocol in terms of time economy and expressiveness and of the short- and long-term effects on shear motion of the single tissue layers of the lower back obtained through ultrasound imaging. Secondary outcomes will include thickness and compressibility of the lumbar structures and flexibility of the dorsal structures, indentometry, and superficial skin temperature. A minimum of 60 healthy, competitive 15-35-year-old female soccer players will be recruited and randomised into three groups. Short-term effects of IAMT on thoracolumbar structures will be compared with heat application and pressure-less placebo treatment. Long-term effects in the IAMT group will be tested after nine further interventions over a 5-week period (2×/week) and compared with the placebo group, which will not receive further treatments but will serve as a control. Intermediate and final testing of both groups will occur in weeks three and five. This pilot study will assess the feasibility and the impact of IAMT for the lower back particularly by examining the structural and functional properties of myofascial tissue using diagnostic ultrasound. These outcomes could evaluate the feasibility of the measurements used, shall build a basis for sample size calculation of further full studies, and might generate a greater understanding of myofascial therapies, especially IAMT, for the lower back and its benefits. If this approach proves to be practicable, next steps will be further full studies with soccer players, other sports, and patients with low back pain.

#7 Increased risk and early onset of ALS in professional players from Italian Soccer Teams
Reference: Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener. 2020 Apr 22:1-7. doi: 10.1080/21678421.2020.1752250. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Pupillo E, Bianchi E, Vanacore N, Montalto C, Ricca G, Robustelli Della Cuna FS, Fumagalli F, Castellani M, Poli F, Romeo F, Tommasi D, Lazzaro P, Beghi E
Summary: Since the observation of several deaths from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) among Italian professional soccer players, an association between ALS and soccer has been postulated. The objective of the study is to investigate the association between professional soccer and the risk of ALS in a large cohort of former professional soccer players with prolonged follow-up. All professional soccer players practicing in the period 1959-2000 were identified through the archives of an Italian soccer cards publisher. For each player, date and place of birth, playing role, and team history were recorded. Each player was followed since 15 years of age. Incident ALS cases were all soccer players first diagnosed during the period 1959-2018. The expected incidence rate was the number of ALS cases/100,000 person-years expected in the cohort. SIR was the ratio between observed and expected incidence rate. 34 ALS cases were detected. The number of expected cases was 17.8. The SIR was 1.91 (95% CI 1.32-2.67) in the entire sample and 4.66 (95% CI 2.66-7.57) in subjects aged less than 45 years. The mean age at diagnosis was 45.0 years. Compared to the mean age of onset of ALS in the general population (65.2 years), the disease in former soccer players occurred 20.2 years earlier. Professional soccer players are at higher risk of developing ALS than the general population. Soccer players with ALS develop the disease at a younger than expected age.

#8 A cross-sectional study on foot loading patterns in elite soccer players of different ages
Reference: J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2020 Apr 7. doi: 10.3233/BMR-181436. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Hotfiel T, Golditz T, Wegner J, Pauser J, Brem M, Swoboda B, Carl HD
Summary: Alterations in plantar loading patterns are risk factors for stress injuries of the lower limb, particularly of the foot and ankle. Epidemiological studies have revealed a higher incidence of soccer-related stress fractures of the fifth metatarsal (MT V) in younger athletes than in their adult counterparts.The aim of the present study was to assess the plantar pressure distributions of members of four high-level soccer teams of different age groups to identify age-related differences in loading patterns. A total of 65 elite soccer players were included in the study. Data were computed with sensor-loaded insoles (pedar® X system, novel Inc., Munich, Germany) while the players ran in soccer shoes. Plantar pressures for nine defined regions on the preferred and nonpreferred foot were analyzed. The participants consisted of 17 elite male soccer professionals from the first national league (mean 23 years, height 184 cm, weight 81 kg), 14 players from the under-21 squad (U21, 20 years, 180 cm, 75 kg), 15 players from the U17 squad (16 years, 176 cm, 69 kg) and 19 players from the U16 squad (15 years, 179 cm, 70 kg). We detected statistically significantly elevated peak pressures on the lateral aspects of the nonpreferred foot compared with the preferred foot in the U16 and U17 players, corresponding to a relative increase by 29% (p= 0.044) in the lateral midfoot, a relative increase by 24% (p= 0.031) in MT heads 4-5 in the U16 players and a difference of 18% (p= 0.049) in the lateral midfoot in the U17 players. In contrast, the U21 and adult professional players displayed symmetric plantar pressure distributions in all foot regions. In contrast to adult elite soccer players, adolescents demonstrate asymmetric foot loading patterns with increased peak loads in the lateral aspects of the nonpreferred foot. Our results may provide some explanation for MT V stress fractures that occur in elite adolescents.

#9 The Effect of Training Experience and Leg Dominance on the Prevalence of Asymptomatic Intraarticular Changes of the Knee Joints in Adult Professional Male Soccer Players
Reference: Sports Med Open. 2020 Apr 19;6(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s40798-020-00248-9.
Authors: Bezuglov EN, Khaitin VY, Lyubushkina AV, Lazarev AM, Gorinov AV, Sivakova EY, Rumiantseva EI, Lychagin AV
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Summary: Currently, no data is available regarding the association between professional experience or limb dominance and the prevalence of asymptomatic knee joint lesions in adult professional male soccer players. The prevalence of the accumulated changes increases with training experience. This is especially true for the dominant leg, which is involved in a large proportion of the athletes' movements.  MRI was used to assess the condition of 94 knee joints in 47 adult professional male soccer players (mean age 25.7 ± 4.6 years, BMI 22.8 ± 1.4). Previous surgery on joints was an exclusion criterion. No football player had knee injuries (including fresh bruises) for at least 3 months before the examination. All the scans were performed using a 1.5T MRI scanner and a slice thickness of 3 mm. The images were blindly analyzed by two experienced radiologists. We analyzed all the three compartments of the knee joint. We consider a chondral lesion already from grade I in modified Noyes and Stabler classification system. To assess the influence of soccer training experience, all players were divided into two groups: group 1 formed from players with less than 20 years of experience and group 2 with more than 20 years of experience. One hundred percent of the soccer players had at least one chondral and meniscal lesion. In both legs, the posterior horn of the medial meniscus (95.6%) was the most frequent site of injury. Most of the injuries were classified as grade II injuries (73.3% for the dominant and 75.6% for the non-dominant leg). Experience and age of the athletes significantly increased the probability of subcortical bone lesions. They were significantly positively correlated with the grades of patellar lesions and lesions of the patellar surface of the femur and significantly negatively correlated with the grades of lesions of posterior horn of lateral meniscus and anterior horn of medial meniscus. No statistically significant differences in the prevalence and grades of cartilage and meniscal lesions in the dominant and non-dominant limb were observed. Soccer practice is associated with the increased prevalence of asymptomatic chondral and meniscal lesions. The probability of subcortical bone lesions significantly increases with training experience and age. These factors are also positively correlated with the grades of patellar lesions and lesions of the patellar surface of the femur. The prevalence and grade of asymptomatic chondral and meniscal lesions is independent of leg dominance.

#10 Asymmetry of lower limb strength and jumping ability of young soccer players
Reference: Acta Bioeng Biomech. 2020;22(1):79-85.
Author: Rutkowska-Kucharska A
Summary: The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential correlation between asymmetry of lower limb muscle torque, asymmetry of vertical ground reaction force during take-off in young soccer players and their jumping abilities. Twenty-three young soccer player (16.9 ± 0.64 years old) participated in measurements. An isokinetic dynamometer, the Biodex System, was applied to test muscle torque (PT) of the knee flexors and extensors. The vertical ground reaction force (vGRF) was recorded from two Kistler plates. Jumping abilities were assessed with the horizontal (HJ) and vertical jump (VJ) tests. The asymmetry index (AI) was used to assess the asymmetry of the limbs. The asymmetry index showed the highest asymmetry (over 10%) for the PT under static conditions for knee flexors and extensors. The correlation (-0.432, p = 0.038) was found between the asymmetry of vGRF and the height of the VJ. There was no correlation between the muscle torque and the height of the vertical jump. However, a correlation between the HJ length and muscle torque for flexors and extensors of the right and left lower limb was found. The asymmetry of the muscle torque of the flexors and extensors of the knee joint does not correlate with the results of both jumping ability tests. There was a statistically significant correlation between the vGRF asymmetry index during take-off and the height of the VJ. In the HJ, such a relationship was not found.

#11 Seasonal Training Load Quantification and Comparison in College Male Soccer Players
Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Mar 17. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003589. [Epub ahead of print]
Authors: Ryan GA, Snarr RL, Eisenman ML, Rossi SJ.
Summary: Monitoring and quantification of training load (TL) throughout a competitive soccer season is important to ensure players are able to perform throughout the season. The intent of this study was to examine the positional demands and patterns of select measures of TL during a 14-week season in collegiate male soccer players. Heart rate (HR), running performance (SZ), and perceived recovery data were collected daily using a bioharness for each subject (n = 21). Data were grouped into 2- to 3-week training blocks (Pre1, Pre2, In1, In2, In3, and In4). Continuous variables were analyzed using a multivariate analysis of variance, with post hoc Least Squared Difference pairwise comparisons. Significant positional differences were observed across the season. During Pre1, center midfielders (CM) spent more time in %HRlow compared to center backs (CB) (p < 0.01), wide midfielders (p < 0.01), and center forwards (p = 0.04). Center midfielders spent greater time in SZlower than CB (p < 0.01) and wide backs (WB) (p = 0.01). Wide backs spent greater time in SZupper compared to other positions (all p < 0.01). During Pre2, WB spent more time in %HRhigh and SZupper compared to other positions (all p < 0.01). Positional differences were more varied throughout in-season comparisons, but generally, WB and CB demonstrated higher intensities in variables compared to other positions. Tracking variations in positional TLs across the season is important for coaching and training staffs to determine player readiness and plan future training sessions, while helping to mitigate overuse injuries during a long competitive season.

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