Research: Maximal Speed as a Protective Mechanism

At Orlando City SC, we have an MLS team, an NWSL team, and a USL team. The great thing about this is that we have a lot of personnel to share ideas among the teams. The men’s assistant fitness coach passed this research paper along to me and it backs up the idea that I wrote about in the first post on the benefits of training maximal velocity.

You can request the full publication on HERE

It showed that weekly exposure to maximal velocities (95%+) acted as a protection mechanism. The also went on to show that the relationship between risk of injury and exposure to maximal velocity was “U-shaped”. If an athlete is rarely exposed (<5 sprints) to maximal speeds in the week, they won’t be able to cope when they do hit top speeds. They found the sweet spot to be in the 6-10 sprints a week range and that >10 sprints a week led to higher risk for injury.  Furthermore, an athlete that has higher chronic workloads can cope much better with higher sprint volumes and frequencies.

Granted, this is from Gaelic football, but the concept can hold true in soccer as well.


High chronic training loads and exposure to bouts of maximal velocity running reduce injury risk in elite Gaelic football.

Malone S1, Roe M2, Doran DA3, Gabbett TJ4, Collins K2.

Author information



To examine the relationship between chronic training loads, number of exposures to maximal velocity, the distance covered at maximal velocity, percentage of maximal velocity in training and match-play and subsequent injury risk in elite Gaelic footballers.


Prospective cohort design.


Thirty-seven elite Gaelic footballers from one elite squad were involved in a one-season study. Training and game loads (session-RPE multiplied by duration in min) were recorded in conjunction with external match and training loads (using global positioning system technology) to measure the distance covered at maximal velocity, relative maximal velocity and the number of player exposures to maximal velocity across weekly periods during the season. Lower limb injuries were also recorded. Training load and GPS data were modelled against injury data using logistic regression. Odds ratios (OR) were calculated based on chronic training load status, relative maximal velocity and number of exposures to maximal velocity with these reported against the lowest reference group for these variables.


Players who produced over 95% maximal velocity on at least one occasion within training environments had lower risk of injury compared to the reference group of 85% maximal velocity on at least one occasion (OR: 0.12, p=0.001). Higher chronic training loads (≥4750AU) allowed players to tolerate increased distances (between 90 to 120m) and exposures to maximal velocity (between 10 to 15 exposures), with these exposures having a protective effect compared to lower exposures (OR: 0.22 p=0.026) and distance (OR=0.23, p=0.055).


Players who had higher chronic training loads (≥4750AU) tolerated increased distances and exposures to maximal velocity when compared to players exposed to low chronic training loads (≤4750AU). Under- and over-exposure of players to maximal velocity events (represented by a U-shaped curve) increased the risk of injury.


Published by John Grace

John is a performance coach, specializing in the development of speed, power, and strength, with experience coaching in professional soccer at the national and international level and in weightlifting at the junior, university, and senior national level and masters international level. Along with this professional and national level coaching, he has coached athlete's in a variety of semi-professional sports as well as Division I, II, and III athletics. With more than a decade of extensive coaching experience, he aims to provide an unparalleled training experience.

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