High-Intensity Acceleration and Deceleration Demands in Elite Team Sports Competitive Match Play: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies

Harper, D.J., Carling, C., Kiely, J.

Background: The external movement loads on players during competitive team sports are commonly assessed using global positioning system (GPS) devices. These data inform physical conditioning and injury prevention strategies tailored to match play demands. Accelerations and decelerations are crucial indicators of external load intensity, yet no previous meta-analysis has compared high and very high intensity acceleration and deceleration demands in elite team sports during competitive matches.

Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to quantify and compare high and very high intensity acceleration versus deceleration demands during competitive match play in elite team sports.

Methods: A systematic review of four electronic databases identified peer-reviewed articles from January 2010 to April 2018 reporting higher intensity accelerations and decelerations concurrently in elite team sports match play. Meta-analyses compared standardized mean differences in frequency and temporal changes of high and very high intensity accelerations and decelerations during match play across different sports.

Results: Nineteen studies across seven team sports were included, totaling 469 male participants. American Football showed a greater frequency of high and very high intensity accelerations compared to decelerations. In all other sports, including soccer, there were greater frequencies of high and very high intensity decelerations compared to accelerations. Analysis of temporal changes from first to second half periods of match play revealed small decreases in both acceleration and deceleration frequencies.

Conclusion: Elite players must be prepared for the high-intensity accelerations and decelerations of competitive match play, necessitating exposure to comparable demands in training. These findings can inform practical training designs, with suggested guidelines for future research using GPS devices. Ensuring players are adequately conditioned for match demands is crucial for performance and injury prevention.

View this research