Does Diet Affect Match Performance?

There is little doubt that it takes a tremendous amount of energy to play soccer. Professional players may run up to 12 km (7.2 miles) over the course of a 90-minute match. Most coaches and players also agree that a proper nutrition is essential to provide the calories and energy needed for peak performance. But how important is the composition of the diet? Are the types of foods eaten a key to playing well throughout the match? Researchers in Greece compared match performances of players who ate high- and low-carbohydrate diets for several days. They found that a high carbohydrate diet resulted in more running and sprinting during the match as well as a much-improved score-line. The results emphasize the critical link between proper nutrition and performance on the pitch.

Food becomes a foundation for elite players, carbohydrate along with protein, fats, and vitamins are equally important.  Eating a balanced diet will help a soccer player to gain muscle, keeps the energy level high, recover and replenish body needs. Proper diet helps a soccer player to reach his potential.   Check over here to know about diet plans.

Twenty-two professional male players were divided into two teams. Team A and Team B were asked to play two competitive matches separated by one week. Three and one-half days before the first match, Team A ate a high carbohydrate (CHO) diet that contained about 8 grams of CHO per kg of body weight with 79% of the total calories coming from CHO. Team B ate a low CHO diet with about 3 grams per kg and 30% CHO. Protein contents were the same and the total calories consumed in the two diets were nearly identical (2870 kcal). Prior to the second match, the diets were reversed with Team A eating the low CHO diet and Team B the high.

The effects of the high CHO diet were impressive. The first match ended with Team A winning 3-1, scoring two goals in the second period. The second match saw Team B won 2-1, scoring both goals in the second period. When viewed by diet, the team on the high CHO diet won both matches with an aggregate score of 5-2.

During the two matches, the team on the high CHO diet covered 9380 meters per match while the low CHO team covered only 8077 (a 17% difference). In fact, every field player covered more distance when eating a high-CHO diet. Some showed slight improvements (2%) while other saw dramatic increases in distance of more than 30%.

The distances covered at various running speeds were also greater on the high CHO diet. In particular, distances covered during sprinting (>15 miles/hr) and high-speed running (12-15 miles/hr) were improved by 17 and 34%.

Interestingly, exercising heart rates were slightly lower during the low-CHO diet. It is likely that less running when playing under this condition reflects fatigue and reduced effort. Thus, lower heart rates.

The results of this study clearly show the effects that diet has on soccer performance. As opposed to tightly controlled laboratory studies, this study looked at performance during a competitive match played between two teams that had been placed on diets either high in carbohydrates or high in fat. When the team was placed on a high-CHO diet, the players ran more, sprinted more, scored more goals and conceded fewer – a clear improvement on performance.

It is also interesting to note how quickly a change in diet can affect performance. With only one week between matches, Team B switched to the high CHO diet for 3.5-days. The result was vastly improved performance on the field and, most importantly, success on the scoreboard.

The bottom line is that diet can markedly affect performance during a match. Focusing on a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat will help teams achieve peak performance. As this study suggests, the individual improvements can lead to a better result.

Reference

Souglis AG, Chryssanthopoulos C, Travlos AK, Zorzou AE, Gissis I, Papadopoulos C, Sotiropoulos A (2012) The effect of high vs. low carbohydrate diets on distances covered in soccer, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182792147

Posted by Jay Williams, Ph.D. Labels: Current Research, Nutrition
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Menthol: Fresh Breath and Better Performance?

Exercising in the heat is always a difficult task. Hot environments place a tremendous demand on the cardiovascular and thermoregulatory systems. This typically leads to decreased performance, particularly in sports that last an hour or more. As a result, coaches and players are always searching for new ways to perform in the heat. In a new study, researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom report that simply rinsing the mouth with menthol, a common flavoring agent, can actually improve performance during exercise in a hot environment.

The researchers asked nine moderately trained subjects to exercise on a stationary bicycle at ~65% of their maximal capacity. They were told to continue exercising as long as possible while the total duration was recorded. On one occasion, subjects swilled a 0.01% menthol solution in their mouth for 10 seconds after which it was spit out without swallowing. On the other occasion, they swilled an orange flavored placebo drink. They were given the solution every 10 minutes and were allowed to drink as much water as they wanted. All of the bouts were performed in the heat at a room temperature of 34°C or 93°F.

Eight of the nine subjects improved their exercise duration when they swilled the menthol. Total exercise time increased from an average of 58 to 63 minutes. Despite this improvement in performance, there were no differences in the subjects’ body temperature or the amount of energy expended. What seemed to be improved was the perception of their effort. Overall, the subjects felt that that the menthol was “refreshing” and “stimulating”. This resulted in the subjects feeling a reduced sense of effort during the exercise bout, particularly a reduced effort of breathing. That is, breathing felt easier which made the exercise seem easier.

The authors conclude that the improvement in performance was probably due to psychological factors. The menthol may have stimulated some region of the mouth which activated a network of taste- and reward-regions of the brain. The pleasantness of a cool mouth coupled with taste and flavor may have caused the subjects to experience less discomfort as they were approaching exhaustion.

Menthol is an interesting compound. It comes from various mint oils as well as peppermint. When it is applied to the skin, there is a cooling sensation. The same sensation is experienced when taken orally. As a result, many companies include menthol in all sorts of skin creams, foods, mouthwashes, medications and cigarettes. Ben Gay ointment, peppermint candies, and many throat lozenges all contain menthol. Some people report that this cooling effect increases alertness and reduces minor pain. For example, a throat lozenge soothing sore throat pain. So it is not surprising that swilling a menthol drink might reduce one’s perception of breathing during exercise.

There are a few important points to be made about this study. First, and most importantly, the menthol did not actually lower body temperature. The improvement in performance does not indicate that menthol protects against any of the potential problems of exercising in the heat such as dehydration. It remains very important that when exercising in the heat, players drink plenty of fluids and to be aware of heat-related illness and injury.

Second, the type of exercise performed in this study doesn’t really simulate match play. The subjects were asked to exercise at a constant, pre-determined pace and to continue as long as possible. Match play requires players to start and stop and run at a variety of speeds. This means that the reduced perceived exertion caused by the menthol may be specific to the type of exercise studied and may not occur during an activity like soccer. Also, it is difficult, if not impossible for players to drink every 10 minutes during a match.

Despite these drawbacks, the finding that menthol may improve performance is intriguing.The performance of the online trading bots has been very accurate and successful, thanks to the superior technology used in configuring these systems. Bitcoin Trader robot also uses the combination of complex algorithms and advanced technology to generate increased profits for the users. This design provides laser-accurate performance and high winning ratios. They claim to have a winning ration of 99.4%.  While it may not actually combat the physiological effects of exercising in the heat, including it in drinks may have some positive psychological effect. This study also adds to a growing body of research showing that what goes into your mouth may affect exercise. Earlier, the SSO reported that merely swilling a carbohydrate beverage (sports drink) might also affect the central nervous system and improve performance (LINK). These studies suggest that the mouth may be more important than previously thought. It may be more than a simple a passage way to the stomach but a key sensory component of perceived exertion.

Reference:

Mundel T, Jones DA (2009) The effects of swilling an L(-)-menthol solution during exercise in the heat. European Journal of Applied Physiology, DOI: 10.1007/s00421-009-1180-0
Posted by Jay Williams, Ph.D. Labels: Current Research, Nutrition, Psychology, Supplements
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Soccer as Preventative Medicine: More Evidence

There is little doubt that playing soccer directly affects one’s heath. The amount of physical activity and the emphasis on proper diet found in competitive soccer clearly reduces the risk and incidence of health-related problems such as childhood obesity. It also seems that the benefits of youth sports carry over to adulthood. Now, more evidence has emerged linking competitive athletics with decreased risk of health problems later in life. Researchers in Turku, Finland have found that participation in competitive sports is associated with reduced odds of developing metabolic syndrome.

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Metabolic syndrome is cluster of several risk factors that increase ones odds of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. These include obesity, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), elevated blood glucose, insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol. Some studies suggest that 25% of the US adult population may suffer from metabolic syndrome. More recent studies indicate that some of these risk factors are beginning to appear in both adolescents and children. Researchers agree that one key strategy to preventing or reversing metabolic syndrome is exercise, physical activity and diet.

In this study, researchers examined a series of surveys administered to Finnish children and youth (ages 6-18). The Young Finns Study asked a wide range of questions regarding health, physical activity, diet, etc. Specifically, the initial survey conducted between 1962 and 1977, asked the kids if they played competitive sports with a sports club less than once per week (non-athletic level), once per week (moderate-athletic level) or more than once per week with regional or national team play (high-athletic level). Because the survey was administered over the course of several years, the investigators could determine which athletes dropped out (played less 3 years) and those who persisted playing three or more years.

The original survey participants were contacted again after they had reached 24-39 years of age. At that time, they were asked about their current health status including several markers of metabolic syndrome (body weight, blood glucose, etc.).

The results showed that 16% of the male non-athletic group had developed metabolic syndrome compared to only 6% of the high-athletic group. In females, the rates of developing metabolic syndrome were lower, but the difference between non-athletic and high-athletic groups was similar to the males. In fact, the odds of non-athletic group developing metabolic syndrome were 3-4 times that of the high-athletic group.

Persistent athletes had lower odds of developing metabolic syndrome than those who played less than three years (drop outs). High-athletic athletes also had lower risk than moderate-athletes. Lastly, being a starter did not affect the risk as long as participation persisted.

This study indicates that participation in competitive youth sports for three or more years is associated with reduced risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Persistence seems to be the key rather than the individual skill level.

There are two reasons why this might occur. First, it is possible that competitive sports may lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and proper diet, both of which lower the risk for metabolic syndrome, may be instilled at a young age. In a study reported earlier on the Science of Soccer Online, researchers found that kids who played sports at an early age remained more physically active later in life (link). So there is reason to suggest that competitive youth sports do in fact develop habits that will keep individuals health through adulthood.

Second, it is also possible that genetic factors and what is called self-selection may be at play. Genetics influences a number of metabolic syndrome characteristics such as blood pressure and cholesterol. It may be that kids who have a genetic make-up that makes them less susceptible to developing these risk factors are the same ones who gravitate towards competitive sports. That is, athletes may not only be gifted in terms of sports performance but also in terms of avoiding metabolic syndrome risk factors.

In either case, this finding has implications for promoting youth sports as part of a healthy lifestyle. It is yet another piece of a growing body of evidence linking youth sports to a healthy adult lifestyle. Soccer clubs can play an important role by providing an avenue for participation in physical activity and by instilling habits that will last a lifetime. These include, engaging in regular vigorous exercise and eating a diet that is high in nutrients and low in fat.

Reference:

Yang X, TElam R, Hirvensalo, Viikari SJA, Raitakari (2009) Sustained participation in youth sport decreases metabolic syndrome in adulthood. International Journal of Obesity, DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2009.171.

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Labels: Current Research, Health, Training

Is Muscle Glycogen Depletion All In Your Head?

There is little doubt that a soccer match requires a tremendous amount of energy. To supply those energy needs, the muscle relies heavily on muscle glycogen. For years, researchers have understood that muscle glycogen is very important to exercise performance. Athletes with more muscle glycogen can exercise longer and maintain skill and focus. And muscle glycogen can be increased with a diet high in carbohydrates. Most athletes also understand this as well. What is not known is exactly how glycogen affects exercise and fatigue. A newly published study from our laboratory at Virginia Tech sheds light on this question. We found that glycogen depletion during exercise may hinder performance by affecting the central nervous system and the brain more than the muscle.While exercising glycogen provides the energy required as it is the stored fuel for the muscle. To promote the glycogen synthesis in the body it is important to have carbohydrates. As while exercising glycogen level gets depleted in the body, so it is important to increase the glycogen level in the body because with its depletion energy level also gets depleted. To have a peek at these and read the following article.

For this study, we used rats as subjects and treadmill running as the exercise mode. We separated the rats into three groups. Two of the groups ran on the treadmill for 90 min in order to deplete their muscles of glycogen. After the exercise, one group was put on a high carbohydrate (CHO) diet and the other received no CHO. A third, control group was not exercised and received a traditional rat diet.

The next day, muscle glycogen levels of the high CHO and control groups were nearly 65% greater that the low CHO group. Thus, the low CHO animals began the day in a state of glycogen depletion.

We then put the animals back on the treadmill to see how long they could exercise. High CHO and control groups ran for about 3 hours before being exhausted. On the other hand, the low CHO group ran for only 35 min. This was not surprising. We’ve known for years that glycogen depletion reduces endurance performance. But, how does it do this?

We also found that when the low CHO animals reached the point of exhaustion, they were in a state of hypoglycemia – very low blood glucose or low blood sugar. This was not seen in the groups that started exercise with normal muscle glycogen. Hypoglycemia is known to have dramatic effects on the central nervous system. It makes one feel tired, lethargic and unmotivated. Could it be that the low CHO animals were experiencing central fatigue due to low blood sugar? That is, some sort of mental exhaustion rather than actual muscle fatigue was affecting their ability to continue running?

To test this idea, we put another set of animals through the same glycogen depleting exercise bout and diet routine. We then tested the calf muscles (gastrocnemius) with electrical stimulation. To do this, we anesthetized the animals and made the muscle contract with short pulses of electricity delivered to the nerve. This approach bypasses the brain so that we could focus on how the muscle performs without any involvement of the central nervous system.

When we did this, we found that the rate of muscle fatigue was nearly identical in all three groups. In short, neither glycogen depletion nor hypoglycemia affected how the muscle fatigued.

Our results show that when the muscle is “disconnected” from the brain, glycogen depletion and hypoglycemia had no effect on muscle performance. However, when the brain is involved as is during treadmill running, these two factors greatly influence exercise performance.

During exercise, as muscle glycogen levels drop, the muscle begins to rely on blood glucose for energy. When glycogen depletion nears, the muscle has to take up more and more glucose, resulting in hypoglycemia. Unfortunately, the brain uses blood glucose as a fuel to support many of the central nervous system’s functions, including psychological function. With a lack of glucose, lethargy as well as a lack of motivation and focus are hallmark symptoms. In this state, it is very difficult to engage in intense exercise, maintain motor skills and make proper decision. Thus, glycogen depletion during exercise may be “all in your head” rather than entirely within the muscle.

What this means for the player is that a poor diet, one that lacks carbohydrates results in muscle glycogen depletion during a match? The hypoglycemia or low blood sugar that results from glycogen depletion can affect the central nervous system. Clearly a lack of energy, loss focus and motivation and declining technical skills will negatively impact the player’s game. In the end, maintaining muscle glycogen through a solid diet can lead to better performance, especially near the end of the match.

Reference:

Williams, JH, Batts TW, Lees SL (2013) Reduced muscle glycogen differentially affects exercise performance and muscle fatigue. ISRN Physiology, Article ID 371235.

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Digital world to help you reap in profit

Nowadays, the internet is much more than an entertainment or social media.  There are billions of dollars transacted online daily through various legitimate activities.  Many people are opening their business online and making money through it. Most of them are turning their businesses into full-time online businesses.  Apart from businesses, there are many ways one can earn money through online.  Listed below are the various means by which one can earn money with the help of internet.

Means to adapt

Start up your own blog- The easiest and the most popular way to mint money online is to start up a blog of your own.  The topic of the blog can be about the things you are most passionate about.  However, it is best if you are able to choose the niche market that is profitable for you to earn money.  Through the blog, you can share your passions, viewpoints, and hobbies. It can be used as a platform to connect with the people.  You can make a profit through online advertising.

Online trading of stocks, currencies, etc- With the advancement of technology, you don’t have to approach any broker and wait for him to do the transactions for you.  You can just log into the website of trading software and transact online. All it takes a few clicks to begin making money.  Bitcoin trader app is one of the best software in the system which can help you in this regard.

Set up an e-commerce website- Another way to make online is opening up an e-commerce store. Here you can sell physical products. However, if you do not want to get into such complexity, you can always opt for drop shipping. In this case, all you have to do is to take orders from the customers through the website and use the help of a third party to produce and deliver the items for you.

Consulting and coaching online- You will be able to connect with anyone from any part of the world as the cost of communication is very low with the introduction of internet technology.   You can offer to consult and coach services to anyone just sitting at your home.  The online coaching and personalized advice are gaining quite a popularity nowadays. The consulting can be for any field, be it a tax, IT, medicine, finance, etc.  If you are proficient enough, it is an easy way to make money easily and conveniently.

Make money effortlessly

Are you in need of quick money to pay off your creditors, pay the utility bills, and meet your additional expenses? There are many ways one can easily make money.  Here we are talking about small amount of money not millions of dollars.  One point or the other you will find yourself in a difficult situation wherein you will need an additional amount of money other than your regular income.  Listed below are few ways one can make quick money legally.

Strategies to help you through

Be a market research helper- By becoming the market research participant or helper you can make quick money without much work or incurring any cost.  There are many organizations that are in look out for people to help them in accumulating the opinions of consumers about the services and product.

Walk dogs- You can find many networks online which helps the dog owners to connect with the dog walkers.  Or else you can on your own approach your neighbors or advertise through social media. Try to build a solid track record so that you will be getting more assignments.

Trade online cryptocurrencies- You need not have to be an expert in trading or have an excellent knowledge about the cryptocurrencies. You can use the service of automated trading robots. You can read about it in bitcoin code review wherein you will know all about the benefits and its workings.

Photography- You could earn money being a freelance photographer if you have an inclination towards photography. There are people who are in need of personal photographers for the functions such as birthdays, Christmas parties, weddings, etc.  However, you will need a good camera and the basic knowledge to use it. Once you get the experience, this is a sure shot way to earn the much needed additional income.

Home organizing- You can offer the home organizing service to people. You can find various sites online wherein you can register yourself and they will help you connect with those people who are in need of your service. Once you are able to make a good track record, you will be getting more and more calls for your service.

Whatever job you do, do it with full commitment and loyalty so that you will earn the name and people will be wanting your service. This way you can earn more money than you have targeted to earn.

Fatigue, Balance and injury – Learning from Gymnasts

There is no doubt that a loss of balance can lead to injuries. As players lose their balance, unwanted stresses are placed on the ankle, knee and hip. Fatigue can also raise the risk of injury. Muscles lose their ability to produce the necessary force at the correct times to stabilize and protect joints and ligaments from injury. Most of the studies on fatigue and joint injury focused on the limb muscles (hamstrings, quadriceps and ankle muscles). But what about the core muscles? Does fatigue of these muscles affect balance and raise injury risk? Researchers from the University of Amsterdam addressed this question by looking at core fatigue and balance in young gymnasts. They found that when the core muscles experience fatigue, balance and core stability is affected. This bit of information from gymnasts has important implications for other athletes, especially soccer players.

In this study, the researchers measured balance and “core stability” in a group of young, elite gymnasts from The Netherlands (average age 12 years). The test required the gymnasts to stay seated as still as possible on a wobble seat and they were asked to regain balance after the wobble seat was suddenly moved. On one occasion, measurements were made before the start of a training session. On the other, they were made after the gymnasts did a series of “dump handstands”. This exercise is a regular part of training and was designed to fatigue the core muscles (abdominals, obliques and back muscles).

In the fatigued state, the gymnasts showed decreased balance and reduced ability to control their trunk position. They showed increased wobble and reduced ability to regain their balance. Thus fatiguing the trunk or core muscles reduced stability and balance in a group of trained gymnasts.

So, why post an article about gymnastics on a soccer site? This paper actually implications for soccer players. Several research studies show that trunk or core stability is a key risk factor ACL injury, especially females. Balance is achieved when to body’s center of gravity remains within the base of support. Balance is lost as the player leans to one side, forwards or backwards. When this happens and the center of gravity passes outside of the base of support, a torque is produced and movement occurs. If this position is not corrected, the player will fall in the direction of the lean. Thus, a critical component of balance is the ability to maintain the trunk’s center of gravity within the player’s base of support. This is the concept of “core control” – the ability to control the core to avoid an unbalanced position.

That is why it is very important to learn gymnastics for a soccer player as gymnastics improves coordination and balance in a player, it also develops a good sense of body awareness amongst the players. Practicing gymnastics also helps to maintain weight to strength ratio. Resilience and mental toughness are equally important for soccer players which can be achieved by training gymnastics. Weblink will give you full guidance on gymnastics for a soccer player.

Unfortunately, the correction for lost core control often occurs at the hip and knee (the third figure). To maintain balance, the player with typically flexes the hip and moves her knee inward into a knock-kneed position. This shifts the center of gravity back inside of her base and provides balance. However, it is this knee movement, called knee valgus or abduction that places stress on the ACL and greatly raises the risk of damage (link). Thus, a lack of core control and failing to maintain trunk stability can cause unwanted movements that greatly raise the risk of ACL injury.

As for knee stability and ACL injury prevention, a second key component is the strength of the muscles surrounding the knee. Specifically, the knee flexors (hamstring and gastrocnemius muscles) and extensors (quadriceps) all help stabilize the knee and protect the ACL. Earlier, we discussed how fatigue of these muscles can affect knee stability (link). When these muscles are fatigued, the biomechanics of landing and cutting are changed (increased knee valgus), placing the ACL at risk of injury.

Back to the question of gymnasts. Gymnasts spend hours training the core muscles and developing balance – both key traits of an elite gymnast. One could argue that if fatigue of core muscle in gymnasts affects their trunk stability, a lack of core strength could certainly reduce trunk stability in a soccer player. During the run of play, the player’s body position is constantly changing – stopping, starting cutting and turning. Without adequate trunk stability, the player may not be able to control the trunk’s position and keep its center of gravity within the base. That is, balance is easily lost and some corrections are needed. Add to that, fatigue of the thigh muscles, and stability of the knee and stress on the ACL could become a problem. Thus, weak abdominals and weak back muscles can lead to balance problems. Couple that with weak and fatigued hamstring muscles, and the player may be at increased risk of injuring the ACL. Again, if this occurs in gymnasts who focus training on core muscles and balance, it can certainly happen in soccer players.

For this reason, the various neuromuscular training programs such as the FIFA 11+ emphasize core strength and fitness. By increasing core strength and balance, players are much better able to maintain trunk stability. That is, they are less likely to allow the trunk’s center of gravity to slip outside of the base of support. This, should lower their rise of knee and ankle injury.

Reference

van Dieën JH, Lugar T, van der Eb J (2012) Effects of fatigue on trunk stability in elite gymnasts. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112: 1307-1313.

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Monday, April 16, 2012 Executive Function: The Creative Side of Elite Soccer

When identifying talent and potential success of soccer players, the focus in most often on physical and technical attributes. Speed, size and ball skills often dominate the evaluation process. But what about the mental side of the game? Does a player’s ability to think predict his or her future success? The concept of executive function describes cognitive processes that regulate both thought and action. These processes include planning, problem solving, creative thinking, use of feedback, and cognitive flexibility (quickly altering the plan of action). In a sport such as soccer, players must continually take in large amounts of information, process and assess the situation, rely on past experiences to determine a plan of action. He or she must also remain flexible to unfamiliar situations and new opportunities that arise. Add to that, the plan of attack must be formulated, executed and revised in a matter of milliseconds. This suggests that a high level of executive function would benefit the player. Researchers in Sweden looked at this concept in top-level players. They found that this psychological characteristic is an important predictor the success of these players.

The physiological characteristics are determined by the factors like speed, power, and the capacity of the lactic acid system. Compared to the first half of the game in the second half players become less active which means muscle glycogen level becomes less, and the overall nutrition is also the ruling factor for physiological functioning of a player. To check this out and learn more about physiological aspects.

The study compared male and female players from the Swedish professional leagues. Players who played in the Allsvenskan (first division national league) were compared to players from two lower division leagues (Superettan and Division 1).

All players were given several psychological tests designed to measure executive function. Specifically, they were administered the Design Fluency test. This is a “hand and pen” test that measures multiprocessing, creativity and cognitive flexibility. During this test, players were presented with various arrays of dots. They were then asked to find as many possible was of connecting the dots into a square using a single line. The goal is to find as many different combinations as possible within 60 sec.

The results showed that the average score for all players was above that of the general population, indicating that soccer players excel in executive function. In fact, the Allsvenskan players’ scores placed them in the top 5% of the general population. The researchers also found that both male and female players from the Allsvenskan scored more than 15% better than their counterparts from the lower division leagues. This lead the researchers to conclude that executive function is an important characteristic in top-level soccer players and this trait may predict future success of players.

One must take into account that this study is a snapshot of two groups of players. Thus, it is difficult to imply cause and effect. Does higher executive function make for a better player? Or, does playing at a high level improve executive function? Many feel that executive function is relatively stable throughout life. Somewhat like IQ, it is a genetic gift, one that can be improved but only to a small extent. And executive function training usually involves a fairly intense program. Thus, it is most likely that high executive function influences soccer performance rather than vice versa.

The SSO has addressed the importance of decision making previously. Two years ago, elite Dutch players were found to excel in characteristics of positioning and deciding (link). Self-evaluations of tactical abilities showed that elite players were better able to comprehend tactical situations and translate their decisions into actions than were more novice players. The results of the present study suggest that this ability does not necessarily arise from the elite player’s familiarity with the game. Rather it is more of an innate characteristic of being able to critically analyze a situation and arrive at creative solutions to complex problems. That is, elite players think more creatively which leads to better decision making.

For many coaches and students of the game, executive function may be a new term but is not necessarily a new concept. Most are amazed at players who play creatively, those who read the game and routinely create opportunities out of nothing. It is something that is apparent when watching a match. Unfortunately executive function may be a trait that is overlooked when identifying talented players. The study’s authors suggest that coaches should look beyond simply selecting potential players should not only include physical capacity, ball control and how well the player performs. Characteristics of executive function, problem solving and creative play may help them determine if a player has the capacity to reach top levels in soccer.

Reference

Vestberg T, Gustafson R, Maurex L, Ingvar M, Petrovic P (2012) Executive functions predict the success of top-soccer players, PLos ONE, 7: e34731.

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2 comments:

Justin NeeseApr 17, 2012 02:59 PM

This is very interesting. Thank you!

Even if executive function is indeed an inborn trait, do you think that there are any ways in which we can help it to develop?

Also, as you suggest that executive function should be evaluated in players, that it might be a better predictor of success (an idea that makes a lot of sense to me), can you think of any means where by we can objectively evaluate soccer specific executive function?
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AnonymousApr 18, 2012 08:58 AM

I think I can help you, what’s your email? email me at mohamed.kabel@gmail.com
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Player Psyche and Injury Risk

Many consider injuries as an accepted part of the game. Despite this, coaches and researchers work together to reduce the risk of players sustaining an injury. Much of the focus has been on external factors such as equipment and playing field as well as internal factors such as fitness. As a result, successful advancements have been made in equipment and training routines. However, psychological issues are sometimes overlooked as a risk factor. Players often cope with events outside of soccer. For some players, these stressors can increase their anxiety level, which can increase injury risk. Two recent studies of Swedish youth and professional players show that these psychological issues are important internal factors in increasing injury risk. The authors of the studies also provide some insight into how coaches may play a role in reducing this risk factor.

The first study focused on high school male and female players in Sweden whereas the second study examined professional players from the Swedish Premier leagues. At the beginning of the study, players completed a series of psychological and personality questionnaires designed to identify characteristics of stress, anxiety, daily hassle and coping. Over the course of the season, injuries were recorded by the team’s medical personnel. The researcher then compared the various psychological traits between those athletes sustained an injury during play and those who did not.

The studies showed that a key predictor of injury risk is a concept called “somatic trait anxiety”. This can be described as long-term stress that results in physical changes. That is, athletes who demonstrate somatic stress anxiety are often chronically anxious and may show physical signs ranging from sweaty palms to muscle tension. Daily hassles were also a factor. For the younger players, trust in the coach played a role in predicting injury. Lastly, poor coping skills also raised the risk of injury in the young players but not the professionals. It is likely that upon reaching the professional level, these highly experienced players have developed effective skills needed to cope with anxiety. Taken together, the researchers found that these factors, especially anxiety, daily hassles and poor coping skills, accounted for about 25% of the injuries sustained.

The source of stress and anxiety for the players may stem from a variety of pressures. For the younger athletes, schoolwork and the pressure to succeed academically as well as social relationships with peers can create anxiety in many athletes. In addition the pressures of playing well can mount. Pressure from parents and coaches along with the desire to be “seen” at college showcase events or to be “identified” by regional or national coaches can be great. These pressures often result in the players dealing with what they perceive as a variety of daily hassles such as interactions with family, friends, coaches and teachers, completing homework assignments, studying for exams and balancing social relationship. The net result of this affects the players focus and concentration on the game. It can also alter the athlete’s physical nature which then affects their play.

The result of stress, anxiety and daily hassles can lead to one of two risky scenarios. The first is a loss of concentration and focus on the game. Losing focus during a match can prevent the player from identifying cues and avoiding risky situations such as a blind-side tackle. The second is more aggressive physical play that creates risky encounters such as an overly aggressive tackle or header. In either case, the player is unable to identify and analyze situations that may put him or her as risk of injury.

The authors of the studies do offer some suggestions to minimize injury risk. First, coaches should consider the athlete as a whole person. In addition to fitness and technical abilities, coaches should pay close attention to their players psyche and look for signs of stress and anxiety. Identify those players who seem to be struggling with life events or daily hassles, those who show physical or emotional signs or stress. Perhaps a day off is needed to restore their focus and balance. Second, help players develop effective coping skills to reduce the level of stress and worry. Creating an open atmosphere where athletes can express their worries, feelings and concerns could be a step in that direction. Third, help athletes learn muscle relaxation techniques to reduce the level of physical anxiety. Muscle tension is a common physical response to stress and anxiety. By controlling muscle tension, injury risk may be reduced. The overall goal is to provide the tools and avenues for each player to reduce or deal with their stress, anxiety and daily hassles in a healthy manner.

The take home message from these two studies is that the psychological profile of an athlete is an important risk factor for injury. Be they a youth player or a professional, anxiety and life stress that leads to daily hassles can cause the player to either respond or lose to focus, both of which can increase the chances of sustaining an injury.

References:

Johnson U, Ivarsson A (2011) Psychological predictors of sport injuries among junior soccer players. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 21: 129-136.

Ivarsson A, Johnson U, Podlog L (2012) Psychological predictors of injury occurrence: A prospective investigation of Swedish soccer players. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, in press.

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Translating Sports Science at The Huffines Institute

A word of thanks to the Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Texas A&M University for featuring the Science of Soccer Online during their weekly podcast. The Director of the Institute, Dr. Tim Lightfoot and I discussed the use of the internet and social media as a way to communicate with coaches and athletes. We also talked about some of the stumbling blocks that lead to the “information gap” between researchers and coaches.

Getting updated with latest happenings in the medical and financial world is very much important for an individual.  There are many technical advancements happening in the financial world too. The most talked about the phenomenon is the online trading of virtual currencies using the automated trading robots.  These robots come free of cost and you can be assured that your money and personal details remain safe with them. But you need to ensure that you choose the legit software as there are many scams and fraud systems prevalent in the market. To know more about them you can have a peek here.

The workings and the process to access this software are quite easy. Anyone with a decent internet connection can access them. It is very important nowadays to look for alternate ways to earn money other than your regular income. The pressure of maintaining a lifestyle is more in the current world.  Now coming back to the sports science,

The Huffines Institute is part of the Health and Kinesiology Department at Texas A&M. Its mission is “Facilitating research, application and communication between sports scientists, practitioners and the world”. On their website, you will find a wealth of information about sports science and human performance, presented in a variety of practical formats. What is unique about their site is that it is not just scientists discussing the latest findings. The site also contains pieces written by or featuring coaches, trainers and students. Through the use of short articles, video and audio interviews, blogs, Twitter and Facebook, the Huffines Institute is making headway in moving science out of the lab and onto the field.

The links to the Huffines Institute and our podcast are below. Visit their site often. Read and listen to the latest in sport science research.
Huffines Institute Website

Weekly Podcast with The SSO

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