A competitive soccer season includes weekly micro-cycles consisting of training, taper, competition, and recovery. The ability of soccer players to fully recover prior to their next major competition is crucial not only for their performance but for injury prevention as well. Information on the time-course of changes in the acute phase inflammatory response, soreness, pain, and performance after a single soccer game is scarce.
PURPOSE: to study the effects of a single soccer game on indices of performance, muscle damage and inflammation during a 6-day recovery period.
METHODS: Twenty-four elite male soccer players (20.1 ± 0.8 yrs, 1.78 ± 0.08 m, 75.2 ± 6.8 kg) were assigned to either an experimental group (E, n=14, played in a game) or a control group (C, n=10, did not participate in the game). Muscle strength, vertical jumping, speed, DOMS, muscle swelling, leukocyte count, creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), C-reactive protein (CRP), cortisol, testosterone, cytokines IL-6 and IL-1β, TBARS, protein carbnyls (PC) and uric acid were measured prior to the game and immediately post-game as well as 24, 48, 72, 96, 120, and 144 hours following the game.
RESULTS: VJ decreased (P<0.05) 24-h after the game and returned to pre-game values 72-h following the game. 1RM decreased (P<0.05) after the game, reached its lowest value at 48-h post-game, and returned to pre-game levels 96-h after the game. Sprinting ability declined (P<0.05) post-game, reached its lowest value 48-h post-game, and returned to pregame levels after 120-h. An acute phase inflammatory response consisted of a post-game peak of leukocyte count, cytokines and cortisol, a 24 h peak of CRP, TBARS, and DOMS, a 48 h peak of CK, LDH, and PC, and a 72 h peak of uric acid.
CONCLUSIONS: a single soccer game induces short-term muscle damage and marked but transient inflammatory responses. Anaerobic performance seems to deteriorate for as long as 72 h post-game. The acute phase inflammatory response in soccer appears to follow the same pattern as in other forms of exercise. These results clearly indicate the need of sufficient recovery for elite soccer players following a game.