Muscle damage, inflammatory, immune and performance responses to three football games in 1 week in competitive male players

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2016 Jan;116(1):179-93. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3245-2. Epub 2015 Sep 16.


Purpose: We examined effects of a three-game, 1-week microcycle (G1, G2, G3) on recovery of performance and inflammatory responses in professional male footballers.

Methods: Players were randomized into an experimental (EXP; N = 20) and a control group (CON; N = 20). Blood was drawn and repeated sprint ability (RSA), muscle soreness and knee range of motion (KJRM) were determined pre- and post-games and during recovery.

Results: High-intensity running during G2 was 7-14% less compared to G1 and G3. RSA declined in EXP by 2-9% 3 days post-game with G2 causing the greatest performance impairment. In EXP, game play increased muscle soreness (~sevenfold) compared to CON with G2 inducing the greatest rise, while KJRM was attenuated post-game in EXP compared to CON (5-7%) and recovered slower post G2 and G3 than G1. CK, CRP, sVCAM-1, sP-Selectin and cortisol peaked 48 h post-games with G2 eliciting the greatest increase. Leukocyte count, testosterone, IL-1β and IL6 responses, although altered 24 h post each game, were comparable among games. Plasma TBARS and protein carbonyls rose by ~50% post-games with G2 eliciting the greatest increase 48 h of recovery. Reduced to oxidized glutathione ratio declined for 24 h post all games with G2 displaying the slowest recovery. Total antioxidant capacity and glutathione peroxidase activity increased (9-56%) for 48 h in response to game play.

Conclusion: In summary, post-game performance recovery and inflammatory adaptations in response to a three-game weekly microcycle displayed a different response pattern, with strong indications of a largest physiological stress and fatigue after the middle game that was preceded by only a 3-day recovery.

Keywords: Fatigue; Physical preparation; Repeated sprint ability; Soccer; Team sports.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Leukocyte Count / methods
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / immunology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Myalgia / immunology*
  • Myalgia / metabolism
  • Myalgia / physiopathology
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Running / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Antioxidants