Home > Injury Prevention, Recovery & Regeneration > Effects of Multiple Games in a Week on Physical Performance and Injury Rates

Effects of Multiple Games in a Week on Physical Performance and Injury Rates

Dupont G, Nedelec M, McCall A, McCormack D, Berthoin S, Wilsoff U. Effect of 2 Soccer Matches in a Week on Physical Performance and Injury Rate.  American Journal of Sports Medicine 38(9):1752-1758, 2011.

NOTES: The following article offers unique insight into the effects of multiple games played in a compressed time period on physical performance measures and injury rates in professional soccer athletes.  While this study was conducted in professional soccer athletes these findings may have important implications for all sports in which multiple games are played in a week with little time for recovery and regeneration between games.

To study the effects of recovery time between games two groups of athletes were followed and tracked for in-game performance and injuries.

  • Extended Recovery Group: 6 days or more of recovery between games
  • Short Recovery Group: Less than 4 days of recovery between games

The amount of game playing time was consistent between the Extended and Short Recovery groups (at least 75 minutes played during game, total game time was 90 minutes).  Also, both groups utilized a standard post-game recovery and regeneration protocol (see below for description).  Thus, the primary difference between groups was the amount of time between games.

In-game physical performance was measured using a computerized image recognition software that allowed the researchers to determine the following information from review of game videos: total distance covered during game, distance covered during high intensity running (running speed between 19 and 24 km/hour), distance covered while sprinting (running speed above 24 km/hour).  Physical performance measures between the first game and second game played were compared for both the Short and Extended Recovery groups to determine how the duration of time between games influenced these variables.

An injury was defined to occur when a player was not able to fully participate in future training or games due to physical complaints.  Only muscuoloskeletal injuries were considered as illnesses, diseases, and mental complaints were not included in the analysis.  Injuries were monitored during the time period from the second game played to 4 days after the second game played.  Thus, all reported injuries occurred during the second game played or within the following 4 days.

There was no difference in any of the physical performance measures between the first and second game played for both the Short Recovery and Extended Recovery groups.  Thus, the amount of recovery time between games in this study (less than 4 days vs. 6 days) did not affect total distance covered, high intensity running distance, or sprint distance during games.

Injury rates (# injuries per 1,000 hours of exposure) were computed overall (both practices and games), for practices only, and for games only.  The Short Recovery Group demonstrated a significantly greater overall injury rate, practice injury rate, and game injury rate compared to those in the Extended Recovery Group.   The injury rates were 6.2 times greater for overall injury, 4.7 times greater for game injury, and 3.3 ties greater for practice injury in the Short Recovery group.  Thus, a shorter recover period (less than 4 days) resulted in an increased risk for musculoskeletal injury compared to a longer recovery period (6 days).  However, there was no effect of the recovery periods compared on physical performance measures.

It is compelling to note that a short recovery period does not seem to negatively impact physical performance; however, this is not the case for injury as injury risk is greatly increased.  The authors theorize that the standardized recovery and regeneration strategy may have played an important role in maintaining physical performance measures in the short recovery group.  The recovery and regeneration protocol is listed below:

  • Ice bath immersion for 14 minutes post-training/game
  • Use of compression garments for 12 hours post-training/game
  • Standardized nutrition and hydration plans before and after games (pre-game = large amount of carbohydrates 3 hours prior to game (low glycemic index foods) ; post-game = carbohydrate (high glycemic index) and protein rich foods (sport drinks, milk-shakes, yogurt, soup, sandwiches)
  • No supplements were provided
  • No form of active recovery stretching or exercises were performed

This type of standardized recovery and regeneration program may have helped players to recover quicker and thus explain why there was no decline in physical performance during games for both Short and Extended Recovery groups.  However, these recovery and regeneration procedures were not able to minimize injury risk.

Additional measures may need to be taken, in addition to these procedures, to ultimately reduce injury risk when there is a short recovery period between games.  Other procedures that have also shown success in facilitating recovery and regeneration include massage or deep compression post-training (e.g. foam rolling), active stretching, and  whole body vibration.  Research is needed to determine if incorporating these additional procedures as well as a focus on maintaining muscle balance may help reduce the risk of injury when there is a short recovery period between games.

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