Appraisal of the Physiological Underpinnings and Testing Requirement for a Semi-Professional Football Player

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Appraisal of the Physiological Underpinnings and Testing Requirement for a Semi-Professional Football Player

Word Count: 2372

Candidate Number: Z0 948612

Degree: Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity BA (hons)

The following report undertakes an individual assessment on a 21-year old, male, defensive footballer, who currently plays in the second division of the Wearside football league. In undertaking this assessment, it aims to establish both inter-personal and sport specific needs, which can then be used for the design and implementation of a testing programme. Once the needs of the subject and the sport have been sufficiently explored, relevant methods of testing are selected, then implemented, using evidence-based testing protocols. The overarching aim of this report, is to establish performance indicators which could then be used to aid the development of an individualised training programme.

Football is a team sport which is most commonly played with 11 players on each team; the overarching purpose of the game, is to use a variety of kicking techniques to stop the ball entering one goal and get it into the opposing teams (FA, 2016). Elite football, demands a unique blend of athletic capabilities ranging from aerobic endurance to explosive power and repeated sprint speed (Hoff, 2005). When combined with technical proficiency and tactical awareness, high levels of performance can be achieved (Bloomfield, Polman, and O’Donoghue, 2007). At the elite level, players have been shown to cover distances between 10-13 Km and undertake between 150-250 more demanding, explosive style movements (Mascio and Bradley, 2013; Osgnatch et al., 2010). More specifically, elite players distribute their efforts as shown; standing 19.5%, walking 41.8%, jogging 16.7%, running 16.8%, sprinting 1.4%, and other 3.7% (Mohr et al., 2003). Due to extended periods of moderate activity, metabolic analysis suggests football is predominantly dependent on the aerobic energy system; however, crucial moments during a game are more commonly defined by short, high intensity bouts of activity, which are typically funded by the anaerobic energy system (Sporis et al., 2009). The following paragraphs further explore, the nature of the defensive position and specific attributes, considered crucial to performance within it.

It should be noted, that there are considerable differences in the nature of the activities which are performed across the different positions on the pitch (Bloomfield et al., 2005). When looking at defenders, it has been shown that they perform the highest amount of jogging, skipping and shuffling movements, as well as undertaking a considerable amount of physical duels (Bloomfield, Polman, and O’Donoghue, 2007; Dellal et al., 2011).

Due to the unpredictable nature of football and more specifically, the frequent direction changes associated with defensive positions, agility was identified as an important attribute in football fitness (Bloomfield, Polman, and O’Donoghue, 2007). Agility, can be further understood as the ability to maintain optimal body positioning whilst quickly changing direction (Twist and Benicky, 1996). Agility, is said to be dependent on efficient motor programming, which can be achieved through neuromuscular conditioning and the neural adaptation of muscle spindles (Barnes and Attaway, 1996). When tested, elite level players demonstrated superior levels of agility over sub-elite players, supporting the notion that it’s an important factor within football fitness (Kaplan, Erkmen, and Taskin, 2009).

Due to the varied nature of football and more specifically, the physical duels associated with defensive positions, power was identified a crucial component of an elite defender (Hoff, 2005). Power, can be further understood as the ability to reach maximal velocity in the shortest amount of time (Cormie, McGuigan, and Newton, 2011). Physiologically, power is highly dependent on sarcomere position, the largest amount of potential is available when optimal overlap between actin and myosin filaments is achieved; this is because at this point active tension is at its greatest, enabling muscles to contract with peak velocity (Gordon, Huxley, and Julian, 1966). When tested, elite level players demonstrated superior levels of power when compared with sub-elite, supporting the notion that it’s an important factor in football fitness (Le Gall et al., 2010).

Although the majority of a football match is spent working at low speeds, crucial moments in the game are more commonly defined by short, high speed intervals (Sporis et al., 2009; Reilly, Bangsbo, and Franks, 2000). Thus, sprint speed was deemed an import attribute for an established performer to possess. Physiologically, speed is commonly associated with power and also depends on optimal contractions between actin and myosin filaments; however, research instils that the relationship is not completely linear and suggests sprint speed is also largely dependent bio-mechanics and motor unit efficiency (Gordon, Huxley, and Julian, 1966; Tønnessen et al., 2011). Whilst sprint speed can be associated with power to some extent, due to some variability, it is apparent that both power and sprint speed need to be considered individually. When tested, elite players demonstrated superior levels of acceleration and prolonged sprint speed, when compared with sub-elite players, supporting the notion that it’s an important attribute to possess (Little and Williams, 2005).
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As extended periods of a football match are spent working at relatively intensities, cardiovascular fitness can be considered an important component in football fitness (Bennike, Wikman, and Ottesen, 2014; Stolen et al., 2005). Furthermore, Russell and Kingsley (2011) explain, fatigue is highly debilitating to football performance, primarily because of the effect it has on skill acquisition. Thus, cardiovascular fitness can be considered highly important when aiming to maintain good performance. The onset of fatigue is said to negatively affect the body in two ways, one of which is lactate accumulation, which occurs when the body can no longer ...

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