Relative Match Intensities at High Altitude in Highly-Trained Young Soccer Players (ISA3600)

Buchheit, M., Hammond, K., Bourdon, P.C., Simpson, B.M., Garvican-Lewis, L.A., Schmidt, W.F., Gore, C.J., Aughey, R.J.

This study aimed to compare the relative match intensities of sea-level versus high-altitude native soccer players during a 2-week camp at 3600 m. Data from 7 sea-level (Australian U17 National team, AUS) and 6 high-altitude (a Bolivian U18 team, BOL) native soccer players were analyzed. Two matches were played at sea level and three at 3600 m on Days 1, 6, and 13. The Yo-Yo Intermittent recovery test (vYo-YoIR1) was performed at sea level, and on Days 3 and 10. Match activity profiles were measured via 10-Hz GPS. Distance covered >14.4 km/h (D>14.4 km/h) and >80% of vYo-YoIR1 (D>80%vYo-YoIR1) were examined.

Upon arrival at altitude, sea-level players experienced a greater decrement in vYo-YoIR1 and D>14.4 km/h compared to high-altitude players. However, D>14.4 km/h was similarly reduced relative to vYo-YoIR1 in both groups, resulting in D>80%vYo-YoIR1 remaining similar. Throughout the altitude sojourn, vYo-YoIR1 and D>14.4 km/h increased in parallel in sea-level players, maintaining a stable D>80%vYo-YoIR1. Conversely, in high-altitude players, D>80%vYo-YoIR1 decreased largely.

These findings suggest that changes in match running performance among sea-level natives competing at high altitude likely follow those in high-intensity running performance. The data from Bolivian players confirm that increases in “fitness” may not necessarily translate into greater match running performance but rather result in reduced relative exercise intensity.

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