At a sports injury conference recently renowned sports physiotherapist Rod Whiteley commented that coaches and athletes do not care about injury, they care about performance. Working with coaches and athletes on a daily basis you are reminded of this constantly. As a health professional you are trained to think in terms of injury rates, reduction and hopefully prevention. Often a significant KPI for your role is tied to the availability of players. So it makes sense that health professionals think this way, however it is important to understand that this is a secondary outcome of good preparation.

We are reminded of this by the injury data from rugby that shows that training harder over a prolonged period of time reduces injury rates, Gabbett et al. The so called chronic loading effect has benefits to increasing the athlete’s capabilities to withstand injury during sport. This makes sense as the body has been exposed to similar or potentially greater stress than it will encounter in competition.

For this reason as a health professional it is a difficult learning curve at times to be brave enough to understand that ultimately performance will always trump the need to reduce injuries. This means working closely with the performance coaches to devise ways to improve performance in a systematic and progressive way, achieving high load or intensity training during the preparation periods in order to reduce the risk of injury.

The most interesting part of this (which was presented at this conference from English Premier League data) was that if you have this mindset, better performances, developed with increased intensity or high load training, leads to reduces injury rates, meaning that the best performing teams often have less injuries, particularly the non-contact injuries.

So training for performance if done well, is really training for injury prevention.