FSI CONFERENCE 2021: Alberto Méndez-Villanueva

Training based strategies to optimize readiness to play may be based on three main pillars. Firstly, the periodization process will serve as a framework of how the players will be biologically prepared in relation to match competition, the game being the key indicator. Most muscular and ACL injuries occur at the beginning of the season, likely partly due to players being unable and not ready to compete due to a lack of specificity in training (lack of playing time).

Therefore, playing time may not be the only “killer” in injury incidence. Additionally, recovery strategies must also be periodized in this step.

Secondly, players should be “trained to train”. This training (sometimes called injury prevention) should be organized around movements, where muscles are the executors. Although a lot of importance has been given to strength training, other aspects such as coordination or range of motion should be considered. In fact, some studies show that the ability of muscles to activate, or co-activate to work synergistically, may contribute more to injury prevention than isolated strength.

Finally, microcycles between games are highly different in their tactical components and this has a massive influence on the sessions’ physical demands and, therefore, on the biological status of the players. One important aspect to monitor is the amount of accelerations and decelerations that players perform. Although research has shown that football players perform more decelerations than accelerations: (1) their thresholds are set arbitrarily and symmetrically, even though decelerations may be greater in magnitude, on average, than accelerations, (2) decelerations are not as consistent as acceleration patterns, (3) different GPS brands assume different errors that may lead to incorrect interpretations. Therefore, although there is pressure to exclusively follow “evidence-based” guidelines, coaching expertise and player values and expectations are important components to include in the decision-making process.

Key words: readiness to play, periodization, injury prevention, player monitorization.