Soccer Referees Run as Hard
as Many Players
Professional soccer players are superbly conditioned athletes. But they aren't the only people on the field who work at a high intensity. In fact, the referees run as far and as hard as most of the game's midfielders.
This was the conclusion of a study, reported in the journal, Sports Medicine, that examined the amount of running performed by referees during professional soccer games.
Results of the Study
The study found that elite soccer referees cover 9-13 kilometres in a competitive match (5.6-8.1 miles). And this is often hard running, with 4-18% at high intensity. At times during each game, referees achieved 85-90% of maximal heart rate, 70-80% V02 max and blood lactate concentrations as high as 14 mmol/l -- well above the average lactate threshold of 4 mmol/l (lactate threshold is the point at which lactate tends to accumulate in the bloodstream).
These intensities and volumes are similar to those reported by midfielders in professional matches. However, compared with professional players, referees tend to be 15-20 years older. And because they must constantly keep up with the play, they receive little rest during games and cannot be substituted during a match. So, to some degree, they are working harder than some of the players.
What About Non-Professionals?
Referees at lower levels of play run less. For example, a study by Harley et al. found that county-level referees averaged between 5760 and 8979 metres per match -- only 65-74% of that reported by their professional counterparts. However, the physical demand at lower levels is similar to that of the players for whom they officiate.
1. Carlo Castagna, Grant Abt and Stefano D'Ottavio, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome & Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, The University of Hull, UK, "Physiological Aspects of Soccer Refereeing Performance and Training." Sports Medicine, Sports Med 2007; 37 (7): 625-646.
2. Stephen Seiler, PhD, "The Lactate Threshold," Masters Athlete Physiology and Performance, 2007. http://home.hia.no/~stephens/lacthres.htm
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