Training Load and Player Monitoring in High-Level Football: Current Practice and Perceptions

Akenhead, R., Nassis, G.P.

Training load (TL) monitoring is crucial for making evidence-based decisions on loading schemes to reduce injuries and enhance team performance in high-level football. However, there is limited understanding of the variables of load and methods of analysis used in professional clubs. Therefore, this study aimed to provide insights into monitoring practices and practitioners’ perceptions in professional football clubs.

Eighty-two high-level football clubs from Europe, the United States, and Australia were invited to participate in the study. They were asked about how TL is quantified, how players’ responses are monitored, and their perceptions of monitoring effectiveness. Forty-one responses were received.

All teams reported using GPS and heart-rate monitors during training sessions, with 28 also utilizing rating of perceived exertion (RPE). The top five TL variables were acceleration (using various thresholds), total distance, distance covered above 5.5 m/s, estimated metabolic power, and heart-rate exertion.

Players’ responses to training were monitored using questionnaires in 68% of clubs and submaximal exercise protocols in 41% of clubs. There was a notable discrepancy between expected and actual effectiveness of monitoring, with 23% and 20% differences for injury prevention and performance enhancement, respectively (P < .001, effect size d = 1.0–1.4). Perceived barriers to effectiveness included limited human resources and coach buy-in. The discrepancy between expected and actual effectiveness was attributed to suboptimal integration with coaches, insufficient human resources, and concerns over the reliability of assessment tools. Future approaches should critically evaluate the usefulness of current monitoring tools and explore methods to reduce identified barriers to effectiveness.

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