A Comparison of Pre-Season and In-Season Practice and Game Loads in NCAA Division I Football Players

Wellman, A.D., Coad, S.C., Flynn, P.J., Siam, T.K., McLellan, C.P.

The aim of the present study was to quantify the individual practice and game loads throughout an NCAA Division I football season to determine if significant differences exist between the practice loads associated with pre-season training camp and those undertaken during the in-season period. Thirty-one NCAA Division I football players were monitored using GPS and IA (MinimaxX S5; Catapult Innovations, Melbourne, Australia) during 22 pre-season practices, 36 in-season practices, and 12 competitions. The season was divided into four distinct phases for data analysis: pre-season week 1 (pre-season1), pre-season week 2 (pre-season2), pre-season week 3 (pre-season3), and 12 in-season weeks. Individual IA datasets represented players from every offensive and defensive position group (WR: n=5), (OL: n=4), (RB: n=4), (QB: n=2), (TE: n=3), (DL: n=4), (LB: n=4), (DB: n=5). Data were set at the practice level, where an observation for each player’s maximum player load (PLMax) or mean player load (PLMean) from each training camp phase was referenced against each player’s respective PL from each game, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday practice session.

Notable results included significantly (p < 0.05) greater PLMax values attributed to pre-season1 compared to PL resulting from all in-season practices, and significantly (p < 0.05) higher cumulative PL reported for pre-season1, 2, and 3 compared to every in-season week. Data from the present study augment our understanding of the practice demands experienced by NCAA Division I college football players, and provide scope for the improvement of pre-season practice design and physical conditioning strategies for coaches seeking to optimize performance.

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