Fiji, please care about players’ physical health!

Fiji Inter-District Championship is over and we already talked about it in Oceania Football Center. This article’s purpose is to talk about an important thing that seems to be neglected by those who rule football in some places in Oceania: physioltogy.

Physiology is the branch of biology that aims to understand the mechanisms of living things, from the basis of cell function at the ionic and molecular level to the integrated behaviour of the whole body and the influence of the external environment. Research in physiology helps us to understand how the body works in health and how it responds and adapts to the challenges of everyday life.

Multiple-sprint sports, such as soccer, are characterized by periods of high-intensity activity (sprinting, running, kicking, jumping, and tackling), interspersed with lower intensity actions (jogging and walking) and/or active or passive recovery. All these stimuli generate physiological reactions in human body and it is very important to understand their effects football performance and outcomes.

The Inter-District Championship of this year was held between 8 and 13 October, just six days. And here is the most astonishing data: Some teams played FIVE 90 MINUTES MATCHES IN SIX DAYS. It is really ridiculous when it comes to professional or semi-professional football. It does not matter if it is traditional, it needs to be changed.

2019 IDC group A schedule. Winner Labasa played three matches in three days in group stage

We really do not see it in high level football. As a rule, UEFA determinates that each team will have at least two rest days between matches in 2019/20 season. In Brazil, players need to rest 66 hours between matches as a CBF rule too.

In Premier Division final there were three injured players: Suva goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau and forwards Siotame Kubu (Labasa) and Sairusi Nalaubu (Suva). Of course that bad conditions of the ground are risk-increasing factors, but would these injuries happen if they were rested and without high levels of fatigue?

“It would be better if we had more time to rest” a player that featured 2019 IDC said to Oceania Football Center. “I really can’t agree with this schedule. It puts players on risk” said another player.

A study made by Ispirlids et al in 2008 demonstrated that it took 96 to 120 hours of rest to our body achieve pre-match values for sprint performance as well as normalize blood markers of muscle damage (creatine kinase). So a football player needs four or five days to be full recoverd after a 90 minutes match.

The level of creatine kinase (CK) within the blood is measured in Units of enzyme activity (U) per Liter of blood (L), or U/L. A typical range is between 20 and 200 U/L. However, certain conditions can elevate these levels like a football match for example. Peak CK activity usually occurs at 48 hours after the game and its levels are around 950U/L by this time. It takes 120 hours (five full days) to CK level in blood come back to normal after a football match.

Performance deterioration lasts 24 to 72 hours after the match. Players’ speed decline is maintained for 72 hours while jumping height stays below pre-game values for 24 hours. Sprint time values reaches its lowest values 48h post-game and returns to pre-game levels after 120 hours. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) returns to baseline after 96 hours.

Other study indicated that players that play two football matches within 96 hours are expected to injure (25 injuries per 1000 hours) more than players that play one match a week (4 injuries per 1000 hours).

Even FIFA medical department studies suggest that playing matches with a relatively short turn around (less than five days) is associated with an increased risk of injury around 20% compared to playing matches with more than five days of rest.

Lack of rest decreases game’s quality

According to these findings, soccer players may not be able to perform at maximal level intense anaerobic activities such as those seen during a game (sprinting or jumping) for at least 3 days after their most recent match.

So… Why playing five matches in six days? The players get so tired, the quality of the matches plummet and it is not players or coaches fault. It is impossible to keep a good level with exhausted players. Why not giving them more time to rest? The matches surely would be better once players are rested. Having injured players are not so interesting, that’s why UEFA have a research programme with the aim of increasing the safety of players in its competitions and contributing to the wider understanding of injury in sport by evaluating the injury risk and circumstances of injury, considering exposure during training sessions and matches.

A better quality match attracts more people and more people attracts more money. Just by being a little more intelligent and thinking less about their own pockets people can make football more profitable and interesting. Everbody would be benefited by it: fans, players, coaches, referees and even the Football Associations.


Article: Time-course of changes in inflammatory and performance responses following a soccer game (Ispirlids et al, 2008)
Article: Effect of 2 Soccer Matches in a Week on Physical Performance and Injury Rate (Dupont, 2010)

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