The evaluation of muscle damage and muscle recovery following exercise in elite youth soccer players

Pooley, Samuel (2020) The evaluation of muscle damage and muscle recovery following exercise in elite youth soccer players. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


In elite youth soccer, coaches aim to optimise player training time to maximise learning opportunities and enhance athlete development with the end goal of preparing youth soccer players for a career in the adult game. As such, determining the effects of soccer matches on muscle damage, and the efficacy of recovery interventions to reduce damage and accelerate muscle recovery is of great importance to practitioners. Previous studies have assessed the effects of competition on muscle damage, and the effects of interventions on recovery, yet the accessibility to the elite youth soccer population is limited. As such, many implemented applied interventions are based on laboratory-based studies using sub-elite athletes and simulated eccentric exercise protocols. The primary aim of this thesis investigated the post-match muscle damage of the elite youth soccer population in applied settings to gain a greater understanding of these areas and determine the effectiveness of commonly used recovery interventions in this setting. Due to the vast amount of muscle damage research utilising controlled eccentric exercise protocols to inflict muscle damage and assess the effects of recovery interventions thereafter, firstly (chapter 4) it was necessary to determine the extent to which muscle damage is elicited following elite youth soccer matches (n=10 players) within an English Premier League professional soccer academy in comparison to an isokinetic eccentric exercise protocol. The findings established that, although both exercise conditions inflicted significant muscle damage, soccer matches induced greater damage than isolated eccentric protocols raising questions on the applicability of previous non-applied studies utilising eccentric exercise protocols to the elite soccer environment. As such, further research on the effects of applied recovery interventions following such exercise in elite youth soccer was required. Chapter 5 identified that soccer matches induced muscle damage that remained for up to 48 hours post-match following no, or ineffective recovery interventions. Having established that competitive soccer matches significantly induce muscle damage, it was necessary to define the physical components of soccer matches that correlate to indicators of muscle damage. Chapter 6 identified that high-intensity accelerations and decelerations, and absolute high speed running significantly correlated to an increase in creatine kinase (CK) post-match, providing a new and alternative indirect indicator or predictor of muscle damage. Furthermore, chapter 5 established that static stretching, a commonly used recovery intervention in applied settings, provided no recovery benefit (n=10 players), at 48 hours post-match and as such further research on alternative recovery modalities was necessary. Chapter 7 assessed the effectiveness of active recovery (AR) and cold-water immersion (CWI) with a randomised cross-over design (n=15 players). The findings revealed significant recovery benefits when compare to static stretching, aiding markers of muscle damage in their return to baseline measures, and thus promotes the use of AR and CWI in applied elite settings as recovery interventions following soccer matches. This thesis provides the applied industry with evidence of a muscle-damaging effect of elite youth soccer matches that remains for up to 48 hours post-match. It also provides recommendations for the use of effective (AR and CWI) and ineffective (static stretching) recovery interventions, and the high intensity, eccentric components of soccer matches that correlate to muscle damage indicators.

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