Coaches often fail to account for non-training related stressors when planning training for their athletes. This is problematic because things like psychological stress, travel stress, lack of sleep and chemical stress (poor nutrition, alcohol, etc.) all impact training adaptations. For example, in one of our most recent blogs we discussed how perceived psychological stress was negatively associated with fitness adaptations in healthy young adults. In dealing with non-training related stress, we potentially deplete our so called “adaptive reserve” or “potential” and thus cope less well to training.
Both anecdotal and empirical evidence has made it clear that performance suffers when an athlete is dealing with issues outside of their sport. What has been less studied is the effect that this has on injury in high level athletes. Just recently, Dr. Bryan Mann and colleagues evaluated the effect of training stress and academic stress on injury occurrence in over 100 division 1 football players. Throughout the course of an academic school year and football season, the researchers documented any time an athlete was restricted from training due to injury. The authors then separated the year into 3 categories:
- High physical stress – pre-season training
- High academic stress – scheduled exams periods and the week prior
- Low academic stress – regular season without exam periods
The results of the statistical analysis showed that the odds of an injury were highest during the high physical stress period (i.e., pre-season) compared to low academic stress and high academic stress. However, injury risk was twice as high during high academic stress compared to low academic stress. Furthermore, when only active players were evaluated (excluding athletes that did not regularly play in games), it was found that injury risk was higher during high academic stress than high physical stress.
This study highlights the importance of monitoring both training load and non-training related stressors for optimizing the health and performance of our athletes. Psychological stress comes in many forms and can compromise a players health and training adaptation if not managed appropriately.
Mann, JB., et al. The effect of physical and academic stress on illness and injury in division 1 college football players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Ahead of print.