Good Recovery, Better Performance: Why to Monitor Recovery in Team Sports?

In autumn the new season has started or is about to start for many team sports. The tight game rhythm during the next 9 months sets huge challenges for teams and players to maintain optimal performance for the duration of the season. In soccer the players can play up to 60+ games in a season considering league matches, cups and national duties – not to mention ice-hockey (NHL) where each team plays 82 games before the play-offs haven’t even started!

With such demanding loads from games, training and travelling, the coaches are facing a real challenge in keeping the recovery and performance levels high across the entire season. The Stress and Recovery chart of an NHL player the day after a game shows the demands facing these athletes.

When posing a question “How do you find the balance during the season” to NHL S&C coaches, Reg Grant (NYR) replied heartedly laughing “There is no balance in the NHL…” while Mike Potenza’s (SJS) answer was “I work in TRIAGE…” (TRIAGE: the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition). Despite the answers, these coaches are doing pretty amazing stuff in fine tuning the loading of the players through cataloging drills within a training session when preparing for games (1).

The inadequate recovery will lead to performance decrements, and also increases the risk of overtraining and injuries. Scientific studies (2) have reported clear performance decrements during the season (sprint times, vertical jump, muscle mass, strength, testosterone/cortisol ratio, VO2max). On average the players have 2-5 injuries in season and returning back from injury takes approximately 10-20 days (3, 4). Within a team this means not only a decrease in performance, it also has a major impact on economic losses. It’s clear that some (traumatic) injuries can’t be avoided, but constant recovery monitoring followed by early changes in training and recovery protocols will help the team to maintain higher performance levels throughout the season and reduce the risk for injuries.

Tips for Monitoring the Recovery

  • Start recovery monitoring now! By building the individual baselines before the season when players are fresh, it is much easier to track the recovery trends across the season.
  • Perform recovery test on regular basis to identify recovery trends. When using Overnight Recovery Test the recommendation is at least 1 recording/player/week while with the Quick Recovery Test the minimum recommendation is 3 tests/week for each player.
  • Make sure the player reaches a high score (>70% of maximum recovery) in every two weeks to avoid accumulating fatigue.
  • Actions: If the recovery is not picking up as supposed to, lower the training load on individual basis and make sure the recovery enhancing procedures are optimized. Not only after the training, but also in leisure time activities. Small changes can make a big impact on overall recovery!

Quick Recovery Test The test is easy to perform prior training with real time monitoring devices. Screening the recovery of the whole team takes 5 minutes and instant group feedback report provides immediate information on teams’ readiness level.

The use of Firstbeat Bodyguard 2 sensor allows 24hrs measurements to detect how other factors than training are affecting on recovery. The Overnight Recovery Test is considered the most accurate method for monitoring the recovery.

Read more about the practical side of recovery monitoring



  • Remodeling coaching in the NHL with evidence based data John Lally, Pivot Sports:. Firstbeat seminar, London 19 March 2013.
  • Changes in exercise performance and hormonal concentrations over a big ten soccer season in starters and nonstarters. Kraemer WJ, French DN, Paxton NJ, Häkkinen K, Volek JS, Sebastianelli WJ, Putukian M, Newton RU, Rubin MR, Gómez AL, et al. J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Feb; 18(1):121-8.
  • Injury incidence and injury patterns in professional football – the UEFA injury study.   Jan Ekstrand, Martin Hägglund and Markus Waldén, , British journal of sports medicine, 060582.
  • The epidemiology of injuries in a professional soccer team in Argentina Gallo, Pablo Ortega & alI.. Int. SportMed J.2006: 7(4): 255-265.

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