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Blood sample profile helps to injury forecasting in elite soccer players

By analyzing external workloads with machine learning models (ML), it is now possible to predict injuries, but with a moderate accuracy. The increment of the prediction ability is nowadays mandatory to reduce the high number of false positives. The aim of this study was to investigate if players’ blood sample profiles could increase the predictive ability of the models trained only on external training workloads.

Eighteen elite soccer players competing in Italian league (Serie B) during the seasons 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 took part in this study. Players’ blood samples parameters (i.e., Hematocrit, Hemoglobin, number of red blood cells, ferritin, and sideremia) were recorded through the two soccer seasons to group them into two main groups using a non-supervised ML algorithm (k-means). Additionally to external workloads data recorded every training or match day using a GPS device (K-GPS 10 Hz, K-Sport International, Italy), this grouping was used as a predictor for injury risk. The goodness of ML models trained were tested to assess the influence of blood sample profile to injury prediction.

Hematocrit, Hemoglobin, number of red blood cells, testosterone, and ferritin were the most important features that allowed to profile players and to analyze the response to external workloads for each type of player profile. Players’ blood samples’ characteristics permitted to personalize the decision-making rules of the ML models based on external workloads reaching an accuracy of 63%. This approach increased the injury prediction ability of about 15% compared to models that take into consideration only training workloads’ features. The influence of each external workload varied in accordance with the players’ blood sample characteristics and the physiological demands of a specific period of the season.

Field experts should hence not only monitor the external workloads to assess the status of the players, but additional information derived from individuals’ characteristics permits to have a more complete overview of the players well-being. In this way, coaches could better personalize the training program maximizing the training effect and minimizing the injury risk.


Alessio Rossi, University of Pisa

Original article:


Sports Data Science

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Sustainable Goal:

Good health and well-being