Rules determine how team sport matches occur. Match-induced fatigue is specific to each sport, and may be associated with injury incidence. For example, the injury rate in soccer is distinctly higher during matches than in training sessions. Understanding the differences between team sports rules might be useful for enhancing rules (e.g., safer sport). Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the impact of the rule-induced physical demands between soccer, futsal, basketball, and handball, focusing on substitution rules. Data from the elite team sports’ rules (e.g., absolute and relative court dimensions; the number of players, substitutions allowed, total game time, time-outs) were collected, including the changes due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in soccer substitutions, and comparisons were performed. The data showed that soccer has higher rule-induced physical demands: e.g., substantially lower substitution rate, higher dimensions in absolute (eight to fifteen times), and relative (four to eight times) values. Simulations also showed that soccer has extremely large differences, even considering COVID-19 substitution changes (from three to up to five). We conclude that elite soccer has remarkably higher overall rule-induced physical demands than elite futsal, basketball and handball, and increasing soccer substitutions permanently (e.g., unlimited) might mitigate overall soccer demands.
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