An interdisciplinary monitoring approach to understanding health and performance in English Premier League Soccer players

  • Sophie Grimson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In team sports, monitoring an athlete’s response to training is common practise to assess readiness to train, enhance performance and reduce injury and illness incidence. Physical and mental health monitoring are poorly understood, with limited knowledge regarding mental health screening, musculoskeletal tests, and subjective wellbeing in English Premier League soccer players. Research has investigated monitoring tools and relationships with injury, illness, and internal training load, yet limited research exists surrounding relationships with external training load. This thesis examined mental health and the ability of monitoring tools to detect changes in external training load which trend with injury and illness occurrence. Study One showed a declining trend in psychological wellbeing, an aspect of mental health, assessed via the ‘Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale’ in-season compared to an increase during the COVID-19 lockdown, with individual differences identified. Psychological wellbeing was greater when weekly training volume was > 250 min < 250 min during lockdown (52.5 ± 4.7 vs. 50.4 ± 6.6) (P < 0.05) respectively. These findings suggest that greater stressors could be imposed upon players during the season vs. lockdown, and subsequently imply individual longitudinal monitoring of psychological wellbeing should be implemented. Study Two demonstrated periods of high intensity training and match play were related to psychological wellbeing. In addition when winning compared to losing all matches over a period of two weeks can impact on psychological wellbeing (52.7±4.7 vs. 50.9±5.6) (P < 0.05), and therefore the implementation of interventions designed to improve psychological wellbeing should be considered. Study Three reported subjective recovery markers (perceptions of fatigue, soreness, and wellness) were associated with objective recovery markers (sit and reach and adductor strength test scores) (r = -0.053 to -0.098, n = 1749, P < 0.05). Findings provide practitioners with low-cost objective markers which are sensitive to perceived recovery and specific GPS metrics. Study Four demonstrated goalkeeper specific GPS metrics (previous day and 7-day total distance, Player Load, total dives, total dive load, average time to feet, and high, medium, and low jumps) were related to subjective recovery (r = 0.073 to 0.278, P < 0.05). However, between all positions (Goalkeepers, Central Defenders, Fullbacks, Central Midfielders, Wide Midfielders and Forwards) differences in subjective wellbeing were not evident. Results suggest goalkeeper-specific metrics could be monitored to highlight perceptions of wellness which might lead to enhanced prescription of recovery practises. Notably, goalkeepers are no more vulnerable to poor subjective wellness when compared to outfield players. Study Five, reported daily mood assessed via the subjective wellbeing questionnaire may provide an early insight of injury occurrence. Total distance and explosive distance acute:chronic workload ratio, left and right adductor strength, and daily mood may also provide an early insight of illness occurrence. Practitioners are therefore encouraged to monitor and implement strategies to improve mood, as this may help reduce the instances of illnesses and injury. Whilst adductor strength could detect illness and underperformance, alternative monitoring tools may better demonstrate trends with injury and illness. Findings of the current thesis, provide a strong rationale for the inclusion of mental health monitoring. Findings also provide an understanding of the efficacy of monitoring tools and external training load prescription to augment player health and wellbeing.
Date of Award31 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorGary Brickley (Supervisor) & Nicholas Smeeton (Supervisor)

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