Physiological characteristics of female soccer players and health and performance considerations: a narrative review

Rebecca Randell*, Thomas Clifford, Barry Drust, Mark De Ste Croix, Naomi Datson, Daniel Martin, Hannah Mayho, James Carter, Ian Rollo, Viswanath Unnithan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Female soccer has seen a substantial rise in participation, as well as increased financial support from governing bodies over the last decade. Thus, there is an onus on researchers and medical departments to develop a better understanding of the physical characteristics and demands, and the health and performance needs of female soccer players. In this review we discuss the current research, as well as the knowledge gaps, of six major topics: physical demands, talent identification, body composition, injury risk and prevention, health, and nutrition. Data on female talent identification are scarce, and future studies need to elucidate the influence of relative age and maturation selection across age groups. Regarding the physical demands, more research is needed on the pattern of high-intensity sprinting during matches and the contribution of soccer-specific movements. Injuries are not uncommon in female soccer players, but targeting intrinsically modifiable factors with injury prevention programmes can reduce injury rates. The anthropometric and physical characteristics of female players are heterogenous and setting specific targets should be discouraged in youth and sub-elite players. Menstrual cycle phase may influence performance and injury risk; however, there are few studies in soccer players. Nutrition plays a critical role for health and performance and ensuring adequate energy intake remains a priority. Despite recent progress, there is considerably less research in female than male soccer players. Many gaps in our understanding of how best to develop and manage the health and performance of female soccer players remain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1399
Number of pages23
JournalSports Medicine
Early online date12 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021


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