Background In modern professional soccer, the ability to recover from official match-play and intense training is often considered a determining factor in subsequent performance.
Objective To investigate the influence of playing multiple games with a short recovery time between matches on physical activity, technical performance and injury rates.
Methods The variation of physical (overall distance, light-intensity, low-intensity, moderate-intensity and high-intensity running) and technical performance (successful passes, balls lost, number of touches per possession and duels won) of 16 international players was examined during three different congested periods of matches (six games in 18 days) from the French League and Cup (n=12), and the UEFA Champions’ League (n=6) during the 2011–2012 season and compared with that reported in matches outside these periods. Data were collected using a computerised match analysis system (Amisco). Injury rate, time loss injuries, as well as the mechanism, circumstances and severity of the injury were also analysed.
Results No differences were found across the six successive games in the congested period, and between no congested and the three congested periods for all the physical and technical activities. The total incidence of injury (matches and training) across the prolonged congested periods did not differ significantly to that reported in the non-congested periods. However, the injury rate during match-play was significantly higher during the congested period compared with the non-congested period (p<0.001). The injury rate during training time was significantly lower during the congested period compared with the non-congested periods (p<0.001). The mean lay-off duration for injuries was shorter during the congested periods compared with the non-congested periods (9.5±8.8 days vs 17.5±29.6 days, respectively p=0.012, effect sizes=0.5).
Conclusions Although physical activity, technical performance and injury incidence were unaffected during a prolonged period of fixture congestion, injury rates during training and match-play and the lay-off duration were different to that reported in matches outside this period.
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