No sport for old players. A longitudinal study of aging effects on match performance in elite soccer
UNIVERSAL IDENTIFIER: http://hdl.handle.net/11093/4074
UNESCO SUBJECT: 2411.06 Fisiolología del Ejercicio ; 6109.07 Evaluación del Rendimiento ; 6108.03 Senectud
DOCUMENT TYPE: article
Objectives: This study aimed to examine the effects of age on match-related physical and technical–tactical performance in elite soccer players using a longitudinal design. Methods: Data were collected from 154 players who competed in the Spanish first division (LaLiga) between the 2012–13 and 2019–20 seasons. A total of 14,092 individual match observations were analyzed using a computerized tracking system (TRACAB, Chyronhego, New York, NY). The players were classified into five positional roles: central defenders (n = 37); external defenders (n = 44); central midfielders (n = 34); external midfielders (n = 22); and forwards (n=17). Results: The main results showed that (a) soccer players decreased by an average of 0.56% their total distance covered for each year that they got older. Similarly, the number of high-intensity efforts and distance covered at high-intensity running decreased by 1.80% and 1.42% per year, respectively; (b) players significantly increased their pass accuracy by an average of 0.25% each year that they got older; (c) the detrimental effect of age on total distance and high-intensity runningwas greater for external defenders, external midfielders, and forwards; and (d) the positive effect of age on pass accuracy was greater for central defenders and central midfielders. Conclusions: Elite soccer players with long-term careers were unable to maintain their match-related physical performance as they got older. However, players can annually improve their technical–tactical skills with increasing age as a possible compensation mechanism against physical performance declines related to aging.
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