Heart Rate Variability and Physical Demands of In-Season Youth Elite Soccer Players

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 3;18(4):1391. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041391.


Monitoring fatigue and performance is important for adjusting training loads in soccer. Therefore, knowing the status of the player when applying a training stimulus is key to optimizing the players' development. This study aims to evaluate the interaction between internal and external load, during training and matches, in an elite youth soccer team.

Methods: seventeen youth players of the highest Spanish category were monitored with GPS devices during training and matches, as well as recording their nocturnal heart rate variability (HRV). We employed a linear mixed model to assess the physical demands between training and matches, and to compare the HRV variables.

Results: a higher total distance (+2993.35-5746.56 m; ES = 1.4), distance at high intensity (+641.24-1907 m; ES = 1.5), sprint distance (+350.46-795.05 m; ES = 2.1), number of sprints (+18.38-41.58; ES = 1.9), and number of repeated sprints (+5.91-15.30; ES = 1.7) (all p < 0.001), but not in the number of accelerations, were reported during the matches when compared to the training sessions during the 11 weeks. The analysis of the HRV variables showed no significant differences between the accumulated values during a training week, providing similar results pre-match or post-match (p > 0.05). The LF/HFRATIO showed a negative influence on the total distance ran, distance at high intensity, distance in sprint, number of sprints, and repeated sprint. RRMEAN was positively related to the sprint number.

Conclusion: the results of the present study suggest that nocturnal HRV variables are not different between pre-match and post-match. Furthermore, it suggests that LF/HFRATIO and RRMEAN during pre-match can determine the external load that the player will be able to complete during the match.

Keywords: HRV; physical performance; soccer; training load; youth.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adolescent
  • Fatigue
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Seasons
  • Soccer*