The aim of this study was to examine the most intense periods of high-intensity running during elite soccer matches. Elite players (n=100) were analysed using a multi-camera computerised tracking system. Total high-intensity running distance (speed ≥19.8 km·h-1) and that covered in the most intense 5-min period were quantified during games. High-intensity running was performed for ∼3% of total time but this doubled (p<0.05) during intense periods (8.4±2.7 vs 16.4±4.6 s). Recovery time between high-intensity running bouts was ∼70 s during the game but declined (p<0.05) to ∼30 s during intense periods (70.8±25.7 vs 33.3±19.7 s). The distance of each discrete high-intensity running bout increased (p<0.05) ∼13% during intense periods compared to the game average (6.7±1.8 vs 5.8±0.6 m). Central defenders covered less (p<0.05) high-intensity running during intense periods compared to full backs, wide midfielders and attackers (4.3±0.8 vs 6.0±1.1, 6.1±1.8 and 5.6±1.3%), and performed less frequent (p<0.05) bouts of high-intensity running than full backs and wide midfielders (14±5 vs 20±6 and 21±6). Central defenders had a greater recovery time (p<0.05) than all other positional roles. No differences were evident between playing positions for maximum running speed and average distances of high-intensity running. These results show that high-intensity running is reduced following the most intense period of the game and that this trend is highly dependent on positional role. These findings have implications for developing conditioning drills and performance tests that closely mimic intense periods during soccer match-play.
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