Objective: : To study the effects of a single soccer game on indices of performance, muscle damage, and inflammation during a 6-day recovery period.
Design: : Participants were assigned to either an experimental group (E, played in the game; n = 14) or a control group (C, did not participate in the game; n = 10).
Setting: : Data were collected on a soccer field and at the Physical Education and Sports Science laboratory of the Democritus University of Thrace before and after the soccer game.
Participants: : Twenty-four elite male soccer players (age, 20.1 +/- 0.8 years; height, 1.78 +/- 0.08 m; weight, 75.2 +/- 6.8 kg).
Main outcome measurements: : Muscle strength, vertical jumping, speed, DOMS, muscle swelling, leukocyte count, creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), C-reactive protein (CRP), cortisol, testosterone, cytokines IL-6 and IL-1b, thioburbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS), protein carbnyls (PC), and uric acid (UA).
Results: : Performance deteriorated 1 to 4 days post-game. An acute-phase inflammatory response consisted of a post-game peak of leukocyte count, cytokines, and cortisol, a 24-hour peak of CRP, TBARS, and DOMS, a 48-hour peak of CK, LDH, and PC, and a 72-hour peak of uric acid.
Conclusion: : A single soccer game induces short-term muscle damage and marked but transient inflammatory responses. Anaerobic performance seems to deteriorate for as long as 72-hour post-game. The acute phase inflammatory response in soccer appears to follow the same pattern as in other forms of exercise. These results clearly indicate the need of sufficient recovery for elite soccer players after a game.