Change of direction performance in elite players from different team sports
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
National Strength and Conditioning Association
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
The primary aim of this study was to examine the differences in change of direction (COD) deficit between elite futsal, soccer, handball, and rugby players. A secondary aim was to compare the performance in both COD and linear speed tests among these athletes. One-hundred sixty-one elite male players from 4 team sports performed a 20-m linear sprint speed and a Zigzag COD speed test. The COD deficit was calculated as the difference between linear and Zigzag test velocities. Differences in COD speed, COD deficit, and sprint velocity were assessed via 1-way analysis of variance. The significance level was set at p < 0.05. Soccer players displayed significantly lower performance than the remaining team sports, and rugby players performed better than all the other groups in the Zigzag COD test. Moreover, the COD deficit was significantly higher in soccer players in comparison with the other disciplines (p < 0.05). No differences were observed in the COD deficit among rugby, futsal, and handball players (p > 0.05). In summary, soccer players were slower than futsal, handball, and rugby players to change direction and presented the greatest COD deficit magnitude. By contrast, the fastest athletes in the COD speed test (rugby players) were not more effective than futsal and handball players at changing direction (as they exhibited similar levels of COD deficit). Coaches should be aware of this evidence, which reinforces previous findings, indicating that very specialized training strategies might be required to improve COD performance in professional athletes.