Objectives: This study aimed to compare objective and subjective fatigue and recovery responses between two-game weeks (2GWs) and one-game weeks (1GWs) throughout a season in professional footballers using a battery of practical and time-efficient measures.
Methods: Seventeen English Football League One professional footballers took part within the study. Comparisons were made between 2GWs and 1GWs in a number of objective (i.e. countermovement jump height, adductor squeeze, sit and reach, knee range of motion, and isometric hamstring strength) and subjective (i.e. mood, fatigue, muscle soreness, sleep quality, and readiness to train) measures. Paired samples T-tests and effect sizes were used to show changes between 2GWs and 1GWs.
Results: Adductor squeeze was significantly reduced following 2GWs compared to 1GWs (p = .002), no other objective measure showed significant change. Subjective measures of mood significantly decreased (p = .015), whilst subjective fatigue (p = .011) and muscle soreness significantly increased (p = .007). No change was shown in sleep quality and readiness to train score.
Conclusion: In-season fixture congestion caused significant reductions in adductor squeeze and subjective mood, with significant increases in subjective fatigue and muscle soreness. This shows that there are a number of simple and time-efficient objective and subjective markers that are impaired in professional footballers during congested periods. Therefore, practitioners should design testing protocols to specifically focus on measures that are sensitive to change during fixture congestion to maximise efficiency and reduce the time it takes to test a full squad. This can also inform practitioners of the recovery strategies that are required for players to maximise performance and reduce injury risk during fixture congestion.
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