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The main and interactive effects of biological maturity and relative age on physical performance in elite youth soccer players

Parr, James and Winwood, Keith and Tole, Emma and Deconinck, Frederick JA and Hill, James and Teunissen, Jan and Cumming, Sean (2020) The main and interactive effects of biological maturity and relative age on physical performance in elite youth soccer players. Journal of Sports Medicine. ISSN 2356-7651

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Abstract

Abstract The main and interactive effect of biological maturity and relative age upon physical performance in adolescent male soccer players was considered. Consistent with previous research, it was hypothesised that participants of greater maturity or born earlier in the selection year would perform better in terms of physical performance tests. This cross-sectional study consisted of 84 male participants aged between 11.3 – 16.2 years from a professional soccer academy in the English Premier League. Date of birth, height, weight and parental height were collected. Sprint, change of direction, counter-movement jump and reactive strength index was considered for physical performance. Relative age was based on birth quarter for the selection year. Maturity status was based upon percentage of predicted adult height attained. Linear regression models highlighted that maturation was associated with performance on all but one of the physical performance tests, reactive strength index. In contrast, relative age only served as a significant predictor of performance on the countermovement jump. This study showed that physical performance (in the tests studied) seems to be related to the biological maturity status of a player but not their relative age. This finding is important because the paper suggests early maturing players perform better in the majority of physical performance tests, and the commonly held belief that relative age effect influences performance may be overstated.

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