Measuring recovery in athletes isn’t so simple. There remains quite a bit of debate regarding what the best metrics are to monitor fatigue in athletes. Objective physiological markers like creatine kinase (muscle damage), inflammation, testosterone to cortisol ratio and heart rate variability are useful but can be hard to acquire and quite costly. Further, the interpretation of these variables can be quite complex for coaches who are not experts in physiology. Therefore, due to convenience of implementation, low to no cost and simple interpretation, wellness questionnaires are one of the most popular monitoring tools used by coaches. The effectiveness of self-reported perceived recovery status has been demonstrated quite extensively in various team-sports. However, there has yet to be any research evaluating their efficacy among American football players.
A new study published ahead of print in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance aimed to evaluate the time-course of recovery following football games in a Division 1a college football team. Over two full seasons, 52 players from the University of Oregon football team reported perceived levels of soreness, sleep quality, energy levels and overall wellness via questionnaire. Wellness data was acquired the day before a game (Friday), 48 hours (Monday), 72 hours (Tuesday) and 96 hours (Wednesday) following game day. Wellness was not obtained on game day or 24 hours after the game. The season was divided into early, middle and late phases to determine if the time-course of recovery differed based on time.
The results showed that each category (soreness, sleep quality, energy levels and overall wellness) decreased in the days following the game (small effect sizes). In most cases, ratings were lowest on Wednesdays. At first glance, this seems counterintuitive because recovery should improve over time. However, in college football, Tuesday practices are typically of the greatest duration and intensity. While not discussed in the study, it is possible that the further decline in wellness markers mid-way through the week can be attributed to the Tuesday session. Overall, the wellness questionnaires appear sensitive to changes in the players perceived recovery and therefore may be a useful, convenient option for tracking recovery in football players.
Fullagar, H. H., Govus, A., Hanisch, J., & Murray, A. (2016). The Time Course of Perceptual Recovery Markers Following Match Play in Division IA Collegiate American Footballers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 1-11.