Background: The aim of this study as to describe the work-rate profile and cardiovascular stress of Italian high level soccer referees (n = 18). METHODS.
Experimental design: The referees were examined during official games of the 1992-1993 first division Italian championship (serie A).
Participants: subjects were all experienced top level referees enrolled in the CAN (Commissione Arbitri Nazionali) and thus officiating in the serie A e B Italian championships. Mean age of the referees considered here was 37.5 +/- 2.14 years.
Measures: heart rates were monitored by short-range radio telemetry. Match analysis was performed with methodologies similar to that reported by Ohashi et al. (1988).
Results: Average match distance was 11376 +/- 1600 m (7818-13063) and no overall differences were observed between halves (p > 0.05). Nevertheless less distances were covered running backward and side-wards during the second half compared to the first half (p < 0.05). Referees, on average, covered 41.7% of the whole match distance at speeds faster than 13.1 km x h(-1). Heart rates attained 89.1% of the estimated maximal over the duration of a full game and no difference was observed between halves (p = 0.72). Mean heart rates of the first 15 min of play were lower than the other two sections of the first half (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: Match analysis revealed the intermittent nature of the referees' activities. Their intensity varied from situation to situation, frequently reaching near maximal intensity. However, sprint bouts never lasted for more than few seconds (2-4 sec). Top level soccer refereeing places high physiological demands on the official thus specific training and fitness assessment are needed.