The effect of static stretching on muscle recovery following competitive soccer matches

Pooley, Sam, Allen, Matt, Spendiff, Owen and Moir, Hannah (2016) The effect of static stretching on muscle recovery following competitive soccer matches. In: European College of Sport Science (ECSS) 21st Annual Congress; 6 - 9 Jul 2016, Vienna, Austria.


Introduction Static stretching (SS) is a recovery intervention often used in elite football for assisting in the reduction of muscle soreness post-exercise, and in research as a control for comparing alternative recovery interventions. However, its effects on elite young footballers has received little attention, and therefore the aim of this study was to assess the effects of static stretching on muscle recovery following competitive soccer matches in elite young footballers. Methods Participants used in this study were recruited from a professional football academy from the Barclays’ Premier League. Participants were male (16 ± 1 years) and of elite standard. Using a controlled cross-over design, participants completed a total of 6 competitive soccer matches followed by one of two recovery interventions (static stretching or passive recovery). The recovery interventions were conducted immediately following completion of competitive soccer matches. The static stretching protocol was administered comprising 7, 15 second stretches on lower body muscles whilst the passive recovery protocol comprised 10 minutes passive seating. Assessments used to measure muscle damage were taken before, within 30 minutes after, and 48hours post match and consisted of muscle oedema, Creatine Kinase (CK) assessment, countermovement jump (CMJ) height and perceived muscle soreness. In order to maintain control, players were excluded from individual games if they failed to complete a minimum of 80% of the competitive soccer match. Results When comparing the effects of recovery interventions over time, results showed that competitive soccer matches had a significant effect on markers of muscle damage, with almost all indicators showing significant differences for pre and immediately-post competitive match for recovery interventions, with only gastrocnemius oedema assessment showing no significant difference. Additionally, significant differences between pre- and 48 hours post-exercise assessments were found in perceived soreness, CK values and CMJ performance. When comparing the effects of recovery interventions between conditions, the only difference observed was between CK which demonstrated improved levels of recovery in the static stretching group at 48 hours following exercise. Discussion The findings from this study demonstrate that competitive soccer matches provide strenuous exercise, inducing muscle damage which may have detrimental effects on future performance. This is demonstrated by the reduction in CMJ performance and elevation in CK and muscle soreness at 48 hours post-exercise. Furthermore, there is limited evidence to suggest that a static stretching protocol would assist in the reduction in muscle damage post-exercise, with only CK showing improved effects. The improved effects of static stretching on CK are unclear, however may be linked to the idea that static stretching assists in the removal of muscle oedema following exercise. Additionally, it may be possible that due to the elite standard of participants, they have a heightened level of CK removal post-exercise.

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