Female footballers 'sprint less'
Published 21/03/2014 | 11:57
A study of top-level male and female footballers has found women sprint less in the second half of matches and give the ball away more.
Dr Paul Bradley of Sunderland University studied 54 men and 59 women playing in the UEFA Champions League using cameras to analyse their movement.
His findings, published in the journal Human Movement Science, show that elite male footballers ran 3-5% further than women during a match, but covered around 30% more distance at high intensity.
His research also found female players did not run as far at high intensity in the second half, but men did manage as many sprints in both halves.
The research, 'Gender differences in match performance characteristics of soccer players', also showed the difference in technical characteristics with female players losing the ball more frequently and having a lower pass completion rate.
Dr Paul Bradley led the research and is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Sunderland.
He said: "We can clearly see that the male and female game at the top level is very different both physically and technically.
"It was very interesting to see fairly similar total distances but substantial differences at high intensity between gender.
"The larger drop off in running performance in the second half for females could be due to their lower physical capacity thus, the demands of the game cause fatigue in the second half."
He hoped his research could be used to inspire better training schedules for both sexes.
German side Wolfsburg and Swedish team Tyreso are among the strongest women's sides left in the UEFA Champions League, where Birmingham City and Arsenal play on Monday in the quarter final.
Jen O'Neill, editor of the women's football website She Kicks, said even at Champions League level there are big differences between the sides, especially in the earlier stages of the competition.
She said: "I'd be interested to know what level of the women's competition the study included, in terms of what rounds were incorporated in the data capture.
"This is particularly relevant because only really the quarter finals onwards are made up of predominantly teams that train more than a couple of times a week.
"The women's game is constantly improving and the last few finals and latter knock-out stages have included some fantastic matches but there are massive differences in fitness levels and playing status from team to team, even within the Women's Champions League.
"Only a handful of teams across Europe could be said to be 'professional' and this can sometimes lead to very lopsided results and hence less competitive second half contests, never mind comparing it to a men's competition where every side contains players who are paid to play full time.
"It goes without saying that full time players will be able to sustain high intensity physical perfomance for a more prolonged period.
"Comparative studies between the men's and women's game are always riddled with such nuances and flaws because even with the best intentions they are rarely comparing like against like.
"This is certainly not to discredit this research nor discourage future investigations because firstly, any studies that include the women's game will hopefully lead to a bigger pool of knowledge and help to continue to develop the sport, and secondly it might indeed be a truth, when all things are equal, that male players do have greater stamina at high intensity over 90+ minute periods, it's just that I believe we have not reached this point, to make such bold statements, yet."