balance impairments in young soccer players

M., Ibba G., Attene G. Journal of Athletic Training. 2014;49(4):454-461

Take Home Message: Soccer
players have impaired postural control after a fatigue-inducing task. The
single-leg balance impairment was related to repeated sprint ability
performance, which suggests that an athlete who was less fatigued by a
sprinting task had less balance impairment.

an athlete becomes fatigued his/her balance may be compromised; however, we
don’t know how much fatigue influences balance among young soccer players and
if changes in balance influence performance. Therefore, the authors
investigated the effect of fatigue on changes in balance during unipedal and
bipedal static stances as well as whether there is a relationship between
performance in a fatiguing activity and balance among young soccer athletes. Twenty-one
male soccer players (~14.5 years of age) from 2 teams in Italy participated in
a fatigue-inducing task, which consisted of repeated sprints (6 repetitions of
maximal 2- X 15-m shuttle sprints with 20 second rest periods). The players
also completed balance testing before and after the fatigue-inducing task. The
balance tasks consisted of 4 randomized conditions: bipedal eyes open and
closed, and unipedal right and left limb, both with eyes open. The authors
assessed fatigue-induced postural sway, center of pressure (the average
distance the center of pressure moved during the balance trial), and center of
pressure velocity (the velocity at which the center of pressure moved) compared
with baseline postural measurements. The authors found that soccer players
performed bipedal and unipedal balance worse following the fatigue-inducing
task in both legs. Fatigue may have had a greater impact on the player’s
balance when he stood on the kicking leg. The authors also found that the more
fatigued a player was the more his balance on his non-kicking leg was impaired.

study is important because the authors illustrate that a young soccer player’s postural
control is reduced due to fatigue the same way fatigue influences balance in
adults. The authors also demonstrated a relationship between the amount of fatigue
and balance, which suggests that the more fatigued an athlete was the more his
unipedal balance was impaired. It will be interesting to follow-up on this
finding to determine if improving an athlete’s endurance may help prevent a
decline in postural control after running. Further research also needs to
determine how fatigued a young soccer athlete must be before balance is
impaired. Medical personnel and coaches should be aware that balance is
impaired during a fatigued state and determine if further training or
precautions (e.g., removing a fatigued player from the game) are necessary to
decrease injury risk. It will be helpful to see whether better conditioning can
help avoid balance impairments after a tiring task and which programs may be
most effective. In the meantime, we should continue to promote endurance and
balance training since the risks are low and the possible rewards could be

Questions for
Discussion: Should we start balance training at a younger age? Do you think
better balance could lead to a decrease in lower extremity injuries?

by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
by: Jeff Driban


Pau, M., Ibba, G., & Attene, G. (2014). Fatigue-Induced Balance Impairment in Young Soccer Players Journal of Athletic Training, 49 (4), 454-461 DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.12