Physiological determinants of success in adolescent soccer players

Max Garrard, Simon Marwood, Denise Roche, Thomas Rowland, Viswanath B. Unnithan

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


PURPOSE: The aim of the study was to compare the physiological characteristics and performance measures between elite adolescent soccer players that are retained or rejected by professional soccer clubs.

METHODS: Fifteen, highly-trained adolescent soccer players (English Premier League) (Mean ± SD, 14.6 ± 0.9 years, peak: 54.7 ± 6.5 mL·kg-1·min-1, Self-assessed Tanner stage range 2 - 4) were divided into two groups, successful (retained by the club for future development) and unsuccessful (rejected by the club). All subjects completed laboratory tests to measure VO2peak, body composition and resting cardiac structure and function. Tests included a cycle ergometer test to exhaustion pedaling at 60 rpm with 3-minute stages of 35 W load increments; standard gas exchange variables were measured. Body fat percentage was assessed using a Bod Pod, and Cardiac dimensions at rest were measured by M-mode echocardiography. Stroke volume was estimated by Doppler interrogation, of aortic flow velocity. Following laboratory testing, all subjects' running sprint performance was assessed over 10 (Spr10) and 20 (Spr20) meters, electronic timing gates were used for accurate measurement.

RESULTS: The successful players were significantly older (14.9 ± 0.9 versus 13.9 ± 0.2 yrs, p=0.03), taller (170.2 ± 6.6 versus 160.8 ± 4.1 cm, p=0.01), heavier (60.2 ± 8.5 versus 49.2 ± 6.5 kg, p=0.03), and had a lower body fat percentage (8.5 ± 4.1 versus 16.2 ± 4.7 %, p=0.02). The successful players were significantly faster (Spr10: 1.9 ± 0.1 versus 2.0 ± 0.1 sec, p=0.03, Spr20: 3.2 ± 0.2 versus 3.5 ± 0.1 sec, p=0.02), and had greater absolute VO2 peak values (3.4 ± 0.5 versus 2.5 ± 0.4 L.min-1, p=0.01). Left ventricular end diastolic dimension (LVED) was significantly larger in the successful players (51.8 ± 3.1 versus 47.9 ± 2.1 mm BSA -0.5, p=0.03). There were no significant differences between groups for relative VO2 peak, left ventricular end systolic dimension (LVES), cardiac output at rest, and stroke volume at rest.

CONCLUSIONS: The present data indicate that successful adolescent soccer players are physically more mature and consequently have greater performance capacity. This suggests that early maturing adolescents are at an advantage when competing in age group soccer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-467
Number of pages1
JournalMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


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