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Sports Med. 2015 May;45(5):605-13. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0313-z.

Match running performance during fixture congestion in elite soccer: research issues and future directions.

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Institute of Coaching and Performance, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, UK,


It has been proposed that match congestion in elite soccer results in residual fatigue and underperformance in ensuing competition due to insufficient recovery time. In this article, matters relating to match congestion and running performance in elite soccer competition are discussed. We suggest a need to determine the extent to which elite players are, in reality, exposed to periods of match congestion and hence to potential declines in performance. Despite evidence of exercise-induced muscle damage combined with a decline in physical performance up to 72 h post-match, research using time-motion analyses suggests that running performance represented by distances covered is unaffected over periods of match congestion. We recommend analysis of alternative movement variables including accelerations, decelerations and turns that are taxing metabolically and contribute greatly to muscle damage. Moreover, a holistic approach combining subjective ratings with biochemical, hormonal and immunological responses to exercise would be pertinent, especially in players frequently exposed to match congestion. Contemporary practitioners typically implement various post-match recovery treatments during dense schedules in an attempt to accelerate recovery and ensure that subsequent running performance is not unduly affected. However, empirical evidence to support their efficacy in maintaining running performance is lacking and we recommend controlled intervention studies using match simulations in an attempt to verify their effectiveness. These points are critically addressed using findings from the current scientific literature, while gaps in the current body of knowledge and future directions for research are highlighted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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