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Detrimental Effects of the Off-Season in Soccer Players: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Abstract

Background

The off-season period in soccer leads necessarily to changes in fitness status. However, there is a lack of systematization that allows identifying the magnitude of these changes in groups participating in off-season training programs compared with those subjected to training cessation.

Objective

This systematic review with meta-analysis was conducted to assess the effects of training cessation in off-season training programs on men soccer players’ body fat, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), yo–yo intermittent recovery test (YYIRT), vertical jump, sprinting time, and repeated-sprint ability.

Methods

To qualify for inclusion in the systematic review, studies must have included: (1) a detraining period of ≥ 2 weeks; (2) controlled trials or cohorts of healthy men soccer players with no restriction on age; and (3) a pre–post training cessation or off-season training programs measure of body fat (%), VO2max (mL kg−1 min−1), YYIRT performance (meters), vertical jump (height), sprinting (time), and repeated-sprint ability (total time).

Results

The electronic search yielded 563 articles, and 12 were subsequently included. Significant (all p < 0.05) detrimental training cessation effects were noted for body fat (ES = 0.26), VO2max (ES = − 1.48), YYIRT (ES = − 0.46), vertical jump (ES = − 0.81), and repeated-sprint ability (ES = 0.68). Similarly, significant (all p < 0.05) detrimental off-season training programs effects were noted for body fat (ES = 0.26), VO2max (ES = − 0.48), vertical jump (ES = − 0.51), and sprinting time (ES = 0.86). When training cessation and off-season training programs effects were compared, greater detrimental effects were noted after training cessation for VO2max (p = 0.002) and repeated-sprint ability (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

Detrimental effects on body composition and physical fitness were observed after both training cessation and off-season training programs. However, off-season training programs seem to ameliorate such detrimental effects on VO2max and repeated-sprint ability to some extent. The results presented here call for the implementation of more effective off-season training programs among male soccer players.

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Data Availability

Dataset underpinning the analysis is provided as Electronic Supplementary Material Appendix S1.

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Correspondence to Filipe Manuel Clemente.

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Funding

Filipe Manuel Clemente was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia/Miniestrério/Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior through national funds and when applicable co-funded EU funds under the project UIDB/50008/2020. Hugo Sarmento gratefully acknowledges the support of a Spanish government subproject ‘Integration ways between qualitative and quantitative data, multiple case development, and synthesis review as main axis for an innovative future in physical activity and sports research’ [PGC2018-098742-B-C31] (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Programa Estatal de Generación de Conocimiento y Fortalecimiento Científico y Tecnológico del Sistema I+D+i), which is part of the coordinated project ‘New approach of research in physical activity and sport from mixed methods perspective’ (NARPAS_MM) [SPGC201800X098742CV0]. No other specific sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflicts of interest/Competing interests

Filipe Manuel Clemente, Rodrigo Ramirez-Campillo and Hugo Sarmento declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Authorship Contributions

FMC led the project, ran the data search and methodological assessment, and wrote and revised the original manuscript. RRC analyzed and interpreted the data, wrote the statistical report and revised the original manuscript. HS ran the data search and methodological assessment and wrote and revised the original manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Clemente, F.M., Ramirez-Campillo, R. & Sarmento, H. Detrimental Effects of the Off-Season in Soccer Players: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med 51, 795–814 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01407-4

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