Purpose: To examine the activity profile and physical loading of elite female soccer players during match play and to study the relationship between training status and physical match performance.
Methods: Time-motion analysis and HR recordings were performed on 14 elite female soccer players during competitive matches. In addition, the players carried out a laboratory treadmill test and the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test.
Results: The total distance covered during a game was 10.3 km (range: 9.7-11.3) with high-intensity running (HIR) accounting for 1.31 km (0.71-1.70). HIR was performed 125 times (72-159) for 2.3 s (2.0-2.4) on average. The average and peak HR in a game were 167 beats per minute (bpm) (152-186) and 186 (171-205), respectively, corresponding to 87% (81-93) and 97% (96-100) of HR(max). Maximal pulmonary oxygen uptake (VO2max) was 49.4 mL.min(-1).kg(-1) (43.4-56.8), and incremental treadmill test (ITT) performance was 4.49 min (3.38-5.17). The Yo-Yo test performance was 1379 m (600-1960). The total distance covered during match play did not correlate with VO2max or ITT performance but correlated with the Yo-Yo test result (r = 0.56, P < 0.05). Significant positive correlations were observed between HIR and VO2max (r = 0.81, P < 0.05), ITT (r = 0.82, P < 0.05), and Yo-Yo test performance (r = 0.76, P < 0.05). No relationship was observed between HR(max) during match play and any of the performance measures.
Conclusion: The present study demonstrated that 1) HIR during games varies markedly between elite female soccer players, 2) all players have high HR throughout a competitive game with periods of near-maximal values, 3) the distance covered by HIR during match play is closely related to the physical capacity, and 4) the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test can be used as an indicator of the physical match performance of elite female players.