Running more than before? The evolution of running load demands in the English Premier League

Allen, Tom, Taberner, Matt, Zhilkin, Mikhail and Rhodes, David orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4224-1959 (2023) Running more than before? The evolution of running load demands in the English Premier League. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching . p. 174795412311645. ISSN 1747-9541

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The purpose of this study was to assess running load trends (total distance (TD), high-intensity distance (HID; > 5.5ms−1) and sprinting distance (SprD; > 7ms−1)) in the English Premier League (EPL) between the 2014/2015 and 2018/2019 seasons using a semi-automated optical tracking system.
A total of 1634 games across 5 seasons (2014/2015–2018/2019) were analysed for team and positional TD, HID and SprD. All matches were tracked using TRACAB® Gen-4 HD motion cameras. Data were analysed to identify significant team and positional differences for each metric.
Small to moderate increases were seen in team running load for TD (p  =  0.02; effect size (ES): 0.21), HID (p < 0.001; ES: 0.88) and SprD (p < 0.001; ES: 0.67) between 2014/2015 and 2018/2019. Positional analysis showed significant increases in TD for all except for defensive midfielders (DM), attacking midfielders (AM) and wide midfielders (WM) (p < 0.001–0.009; ES: 0.14–0.36); HID for all positions excluding goalkeepers (GK) (p < 0.001–0.007; ES: 0.2–0.54) and SprD for all positions except for GK, central midfielders (CM) and AM, (p < 0.001–0.020; ES: 0.19–0.39). Trivial to small differences were seen in season-to-season comparisons for TD (p < 0.001–0.023; ES: −0.16–0.52), HID (p < 0.001–0.033; ES: 0.10–0.38) and SprD (p < 0.001–0.025; ES: 0.13–0.27) for both team and positional differences.
Small to moderate increases in team TD, HID and SprD occurred in the EPL between 2014/2015 and 2018/2019, with trivial to small changes in season-to-season variations. Actual changes in running load over time appear to be dependent on playing position. Running load trends should be updated regularly and practitioners should be aware of the variability within their team, and programme accordingly.

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