Training Loads and Injury
Training loads are clearly associated with injury and there is emerging evidence to supports this. Those associated with sport will already be aware of the link between increased training and injury. What remains challenging is;
- To understand load
- Accurately monitor load
- How to use this information to guide and influence training
The balance between training load and performance, versus overloading and injury can be difficult to objectify. The thought that increased training is advantageous and therefore the athletes need to train hard to optimise performance may not be beneficial. Therefore, understanding some basic principles of load and some strategies to monitor it are important for hopefully remaining injury free and sporting success.
What are Training loads?
Drew & Finch in 2016 defined the workload as either external or internal loads.
Internal Loads: Quantifies the individuals response to external loads placed upon them or an individual’s perception of effort. This may be in the form of measuring post exercise heart rate or commonly the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is utilised which is a scale from 0 to 10 (Borg scale).
External Loads: Quantifies the amount of workload external to the athlete. For example, cycling distance/terrain, running distance, swimming distance, golf swings. In recent years strength and conditioning departments working with teams have monitored player’s running loads with GPS units.
How to Monitor?
Workload can be calculated by multiplying the external load (e.g. distance run) by the internal load (e.g. RPE) and can easily be recorded over a 7 day period (acute load). Research has shown that tissue within the body can still be reacting to load placed upon it 3-4 weeks after the event. This suggests why it can be difficult to identify a precise point in time for when injury occurred. Therefore, a long term (chronic load) workload (28 day period) is a useful tool.
Emerging research is now using these ratios to try and quantify an athletes risk of injury whereby the acute load (average over a 7 day period) is divided by the chronic load (average over a 28day period). This is referred to as the “Acute:Chronic Workload ratio.”
The goal of training is to try and establish a relatively steady, moderate loading pattern over a long period of time which the body can tolerate. If there are large increases in training volume or intensity, the acute load is sharply increased leading to a high Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio and thus an increased risk of injury. Research suggests that if this ratio exceeds 1.5, then a ‘spike’ in load has occurred and you are at a greater risk of injury (Blanch & Gabbett 2016).
Four tips for managing training load:
- • Monitor all training loads as part of your training schedule
- • Consider alternating training days into high, moderate, light loads over consecutive days and repeat.
- • Establish a moderate, consistent chronic workload and ensure any increases in training load are gradual to ensure a steady increase in the acute/chronic ratio
- • Avoid large spikes (increases) in load: this often occurs following periods of inactivity, for example, post injury, or, when in training for a particular event.
If you are having any issues with injuries, get in touch on 01 296 4964 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premierphysiotherapy.ie
Roberto Pelosi is a Masters qualified physiotherapist and is the owner of Premier Physiotherapy in Dublin, Ireland. He has worked and taught internationally including time with professional soccer clubs in the UK, Rugby league in Australia and toured extensively with Riverdance-The show.
He has a special interest in movement dysfunction and inefficiency and how it relates to injury and performance.