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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2016 Jan;116(1):179-93. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3245-2. Epub 2015 Sep 16.

Muscle damage, inflammatory, immune and performance responses to three football games in 1 week in competitive male players.

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Faculty of Natural and Health Sciences, University of the Faroe Islands, Jónas Broncksgøta 25, 3rd floor, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.
Center for Health and Human Performance, Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece.
Faculty of Education and Humanities of Melilla, Department of Physical and Sport Education, University of Granada, Melilla, Spain.
University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.
Football Fitness Training and Biomechanics Laboratory, Technical Department of Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Coverciano, Italy.
Department of Clinical Biochemistry, "Aghia Sophia" Children's Hospital, Athens, Greece.
Institute Research and Technology-Thessaly, Karies, 42100, Trikala, Greece.
School of Physical Education and Sports Science, University of Thessaly, 42100, Trikala, Greece.
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Section of Human Physiology, Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece.



We examined effects of a three-game, 1-week microcycle (G1, G2, G3) on recovery of performance and inflammatory responses in professional male footballers.


Players were randomized into an experimental (EXP; N = 20) and a control group (CON; N = 20). Blood was drawn and repeated sprint ability (RSA), muscle soreness and knee range of motion (KJRM) were determined pre- and post-games and during recovery.


High-intensity running during G2 was 7-14% less compared to G1 and G3. RSA declined in EXP by 2-9% 3 days post-game with G2 causing the greatest performance impairment. In EXP, game play increased muscle soreness (~sevenfold) compared to CON with G2 inducing the greatest rise, while KJRM was attenuated post-game in EXP compared to CON (5-7%) and recovered slower post G2 and G3 than G1. CK, CRP, sVCAM-1, sP-Selectin and cortisol peaked 48 h post-games with G2 eliciting the greatest increase. Leukocyte count, testosterone, IL-1β and IL6 responses, although altered 24 h post each game, were comparable among games. Plasma TBARS and protein carbonyls rose by ~50% post-games with G2 eliciting the greatest increase 48 h of recovery. Reduced to oxidized glutathione ratio declined for 24 h post all games with G2 displaying the slowest recovery. Total antioxidant capacity and glutathione peroxidase activity increased (9-56%) for 48 h in response to game play.


In summary, post-game performance recovery and inflammatory adaptations in response to a three-game weekly microcycle displayed a different response pattern, with strong indications of a largest physiological stress and fatigue after the middle game that was preceded by only a 3-day recovery.


Fatigue; Physical preparation; Repeated sprint ability; Soccer; Team sports

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