The within-match patterns of locomotor efficiency during professional soccer match play: Implications for injury risk?

Published:December 28, 2015DOI:



      The principle aim of the current study was to examine within-match patterns of locomotor efficiency in professional soccer, determined as the ratio between tri-axial accelerometer data (PlayerLoad™) and locomotor activities. Between match variability and determinants of PlayerLoad™ during match play were also assessed.


      A single cohort, observational study.


      Tri-axial accelerometer data (PlayerLoad™) was recorded during 86 competitive soccer matches in 63 English championship players (574 match observations). Accelerometer data accumulated (PlayerLoad Vector Magnitude [PLVM]) from the individual-component planes of PlayerLoad™ (anterior–posterior PlayerLoad™ [PLAP], medial–lateral PlayerLoad™ [PLML] and vertical PlayerLoad™ [PLV]), together with locomotor activity (Total Distance Covered [TDC]) were determined in 15-min segments. Locomotor efficiency was calculated using the ratio of PLVM and TDC (PlayerLoad™ per metre). The proportion of variance explaining the within-match trends in PLVM, PLAP, APML, APv, and TDC was determined owing to matches, individual players, and positional role.


      PLVM, PLAP, APML, APv and TDC reduced after the initial 15-min match period (p = 0.001; η2 = 0.22–0.43, large effects). PL:TDC increased in the last 15 min of each half (p = 0.001; η2 = 0.25, large effect). The variance in PLVM during soccer match-play was explained by individual players (63.9%; p = 0.001) and between-match variation (21.6%; p = 0.001), but not positional role (14.1%; p = 0.364).


      Locomotor efficiency is lower during the latter stages of each half of competitive soccer match-play, a trend synonymous with observations of increased injury incidence and fatigue in these periods. Locomotor efficiency may be a valuable metric to identify fatigue and heightened injury risk during soccer training and match-play.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Colby M.
        • Dawson B.
        • Heasman J.
        • et al.
        Training and game loads and injury risk in elite Australian footballers.
        J Strength Cond Res. 2014; (Apr 7. Ahead of print: 1–8)
        • Rogalski B.
        • Dawson B.
        • Heasman J.
        • et al.
        Training and game loads and injury risk in elite Australian footballers.
        J Sci Med Sport. 2013; 16: 499-503
        • Weston M.
        • Drust B.
        • Gregson W.
        Intensities of exercise during match-play in FA Premier League referees and players.
        J Sports Sci. 2011; 29: 527-532
        • Ekstrand J.
        • Haggulund M.
        • Walden M.
        Epidemiology of muscle injuries in professional football (soccer).
        Am J Sports Med. 2011; 39: 1226-1232
        • Woods C.
        • Hawkins R.D.
        • Maltby S.
        • et al.
        The Football Association Medical Research Programme: an audit of injuries in professional football—analysis of hamstring injuries.
        Br J Sports Med. 2004; 38: 36-41
        • Price R.J.
        • Hawkins R.D.
        • Hulse M.A.
        • et al.
        The Football Association medical research programme: an audit of injuries in academy youth football.
        Br J Sports Med. 2004; 38: 466-471
        • McCall A.
        • Carling C.
        • Nedelec M.
        • et al.
        Risk factors, testing and preventative strategies for non-contact injuries in professional football: current perceptions and practices of 44 teams from various premier leagues.
        Br J Sports Med. 2014; 48: 1352-1357
        • Small K.
        • McNaughton L.
        • Greig M.
        • et al.
        The effects of multi-directional soccer-specific fatigue on markers of hamstring injury risk.
        J Sci Med Sport. 2010; 13: 120-125
        • Lovell R.
        • Midgley A.W.
        • Barrett S.
        • et al.
        Effects of different half-time strategies on second half soccer-specific speed, power and dynamic strength.
        Scan J Med Sci Sports. 2013; 23: 105-113
        • Small K.
        • McNaughton L.R.
        • Greig M.
        • et al.
        Soccer fatigue, sprinting and hamstring injury risk.
        Int J Sports Med. 2009; 30: 573-578
        • Marshall P.W.
        • Lovell R.
        • Jeppesen G.K.
        • et al.
        Hamstring muscle fatigue and central motor output during a simulated soccer match.
        PLoS ONE. 2014; (Apr 7. (ahead of print)): 1-11
        • Gaudino P.
        • Iaia F.M.
        • Alberti G.
        • et al.
        Monitoring training in elite soccer players: systematic bias between running speed and metabolic power data.
        Int J Sports Med. 2013; 34: 963-968
        • Varley V.
        • Aughey R.
        Acceleration profiles in elite Australian soccer.
        Int J Sports Med. 2013; 34: 34-39
        • Akenhead R.
        • Hayes P.R.
        • French D.
        • et al.
        Diminutions of acceleration and deceleration output during professional football match play.
        J Sci Med Sport. 2013; 16: 556-561
        • Oliver J.L.
        • De Ste Croix M.B.A.
        • Lloyd R.S.
        • et al.
        Altered neuromuscular control of leg stiffness following soccer-specific exercise.
        Eur J Appl Physiol. 2014; 114: 2241-2249
        • Osgnach C.
        • Posner S.
        • Bernadini R.
        • et al.
        Energy cost and metabolic power in elite soccer: a new match analysis approach.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010; 42: 170-178
        • Cormack S.
        • Mooney M.M.
        • Morgan W.
        • et al.
        Influence of neuromuscular fatigue on accelerometer load in elite Australian football players.
        Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013; 8: 373-380
        • Scott T.J.
        • Black C.R.
        • Quinn J.
        • et al.
        Validity and reliability of the session-RPE method for quantifying training in Australian football: a comparison of the CR10 and CR100 scales.
        J Strength Cond. 2013; 27: 270-276
        • Boyd L.J.
        • Ball K.
        • Aughey R.
        The reliability of MinimaxX accelerometers for measuring physical activity in Australian football.
        Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2011; 6: 311-321
        • Barrett S.
        • Midgley A.W.
        • Lovell R.
        PlayerLoad™: reliability, convergent validity and influence of unit position during treadmill running.
        Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2014; 9: 945-952
        • Barrett S.
        • Midgley A.W.
        • Towlson C.
        • et al.
        Within-match PlayerLoad™ patterns during simulated soccer match (SAFT90): Potential implications for unit positioning and fatigue management.
        Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016; 11: 135-140
        • Gregson W.
        • Drust B.
        • Atkinson G.
        • et al.
        Match-match variability of high-speed activities in premier league soccer.
        Int J Sports Med. 2010; 31: 237-242
        • Lovell R.
        • Barrett S.
        • Portas M.
        • et al.
        Re-examination of the post half-time reduction in soccer work-rate.
        J Sci Med Sport. 2012; 16: 250-254
        • Miles J.
        • Shevlin M.
        Applying regression and correlation: a guide for students and researchers.
        Sage, London2001
        • Aughey R.J.
        • Fallon C.
        Real-time versus post-game GPS data in team sports.
        J Sci Med Sport. 2010; 13: 348-349
        • Winter E.M.
        • Maughan R.J.
        Requirements for ethics approvals.
        J Sports Sci. 2009; 27: 985
        • Hughes G.
        • Watkins J.
        A risk-factor model for anterior cruciate ligament injury.
        Sports Med. 2006; 36: 411-428
        • Sullivan C.
        • Bilsborough J.C.
        • Cianciosi M.
        • et al.
        Factors affecting match performance in professional Australian football.
        Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2014; 9: 561-566
        • Nikooyan A.A.
        • Zadpoor A.A.
        Effects of muscle fatigue on the ground reaction force and soft tissue vibrations during running: a model study.
        IEEE Bio Med. 2012; 59