High metabolic load distance in professional soccer according to competitive level and playing positions

PeerJ. 2022 Sep 20;10:e13318. doi: 10.7717/peerj.13318. eCollection 2022.

Abstract

Background: High metabolic load distance provides global information about the soccer players' total high-intensity activities. Thus, this study aimed to examine the Spanish professional soccer players' high metabolic load distance profile, comparing competitive level and playing positions.

Methods: A total of 18,131 individual match observations were collected from outfield players competing during the 2018/2019 and 2019/20 seasons in the First and Second Spanish Professional Soccer Leagues (LaLiga™). High Metabolic Load Distance (HMLD; distance covered with a power consumption above 25.5 W·kg-1 and accelerations or decelerations (e.g., accelerating from 2 to 4 m·s-2 for 1 s) were included), and HMLD per minute (HMLDmin) were analyzed by the ChryonHego® video-tracking system. Players were classified according to their playing position as follows: Central Backs (CB), Full Backs (FB), Center Midfields (CM), Wide Midfields (WM), and Forwards (FW).

Results: No differences between competitive levels were found in any variable when all players were analyzed conjointly except for HMLDmin overall and during the second half. However, when playing positions were considered, differences between competitive levels were observed in all positions, mainly in HMLD and HMLD during the first-half variables. In addition, several differences between playing positions were observed, with CB presenting the lowest values in all variables compared to their counterparts in both competitive levels, whereas CM in First Division and WM in Second Division showed the highest values in the HMLD variables.

Discussion: The findings are of interest to analyze the HMLD in professional soccer players, enabling the adaptation and individualization of training in this population according to the competitive level and specific playing position of each player.

Keywords: Elite soccer; External load; High-intensity; Performance; Spanish football; Standard league.

Grant support

This work was supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Government of Extremadura (Department of Economy and Infrastructure) and LaLiga Research and Analysis Sections. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.