Having higher training load exposure over time in team sports may reduce injury risk.
How can this be?
A recent investigation by Bowen et al 2019 in English Premier league soccer players, showed that it was not high training loads, but spikes in training loads that appeared to increase risk of getting soft tissue or non contact injuries. The biggest risk of injuries also appeared to occur when the number of decelerations (sudden slowing movements) was at a low volume, and then reintroduced during training or match play at a high volume. This deceleration finding alone suggested that the spike of deceleration activity could increase the risk of injury by 5-6 times baseline. Similar findings have been suggested by Australian researcher Tim Gabbett and his team, highlighting that in field sports chronic (prolonged) exposure to high load training, that does not have periods of reduced training volume or intensity, reduces the likelihood of sustaining non-contact injuries (injuries such as muscle strains).
So what can be done to reduce your injury risk in field sports?
As discussed in previous blogs it is about gradual exposure to high load training (high volume and high intensity). This can be achieved by planning out your training periods (programming) and then monitoring the response of the athletes to the training and competitions. With increased technology such as GPS becoming more readily available it is getting easier to get an idea about how much training load is being completed. Managing loads has become a popular topic of recent, however it is important to be careful with direct application of the findings from the studies suggested above. A good rule of thumb suggested by Gabbett is if the training load is greater than 1.5 times the typically load from week to week then you may need to reduce training, however if you have gradually increased the training load of the athlete across the preseason and into the season, it is not often that they will reach this threshold without having a period of reduced training or competition.