Purpose: To examine the recovery kinetics of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), neuromuscular fatigue, and performance following small-sided games (SSGs) of different densities in soccer. Methods: Ten male players randomly completed 3 trials: a control trial (no SSGs), 4v4 SSGs (62.5 m2/player), and 8v8 SSGs (284.4 m2/player). External and internal load were monitored using GPS technology, heart-rate monitors, and rating of perceived exertion. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), creatine kinase (CK), isokinetic strength, countermovement jump (CMJ), and sprint were determined at baseline, as well as at 24, 48, and 72 hours post-SSGs. Neuromuscular fatigue was assessed at baseline and at 1, 2, and 3 hours post-SSGs. Results: DOMS increased (P < .05) in 4v4 for 72 hours and in 8v8 for 24 hours with that of knee flexors being more pronounced than that of extensors. CK increased (P < .05) in 4v4 for 72 hours and in 8v8 for 24 hours. Neuromuscular fatigue increased (P < .05) in 4v4 for 2 hours and in 8v8 for 3 hours. Strength declined (P < .05) in 4v4 for 48 hours and in 8v8 for 72 hours. CMJ decreased (P < .05) in 4v4 for 24 hours and in 8v8 for 48 hours. Sprint decreased (P < .05) for 48 hours in 4v4 and for 72 hours in 8v8. Conclusions: SSGs are associated with a prolonged rise of EIMD and induce short-term neuromuscular fatigue and slow recovery kinetics of strength, jump, and sprinting performance. The time for complete recovery is longer for SSGs of lower density.
- association football
- high-intensity intermittent drills
- muscle damage
- muscle fatigue
- player-to-pitch area