One of the strongest predictors of success throughout a competitive season is the health status of the team. Simply put, teams that can keep their best players on the field are more likely to be successful. There’s an old saying when it comes to playoff time that goes something along the lines of: “the team that can stay healthiest will win”. As the season drags on, the risk of injury increases and loss of key players can drastically impact a team’s chances of winning. Thus, identifying risk factors for injury is a critical area of sports medicine and strength and conditioning research. For example, movement screening, symmetry testing, force plate analysis and so forth have all become common among many sports programs. Identifying at-risk players can be useful in strategizing and monitoring them to reduce the likelihood of injury.
A new study published ahead of print in the British Journal of Sports Medicine evaluated whether players who completed a greater number of preseason training sessions were more or less likely to experience injury throughout the competitive season. A team of 30 elite rugby players were monitored during a 17-week preseason period and subsequent 26-week competitive season. Pre-season participation in sessions was quantified. Any sessions that were missed, modified or involved rehabilitation were not considered “full” participation and were therefore excluded. Training load was quantified in-season via GPS which included data for distance, high speed distance, and percentage of distance covered at high speeds.
The result showed that when controlling for training load over a given week, the completion of ten additional preseason training sessions reduced a players odds of injury by 17%. In addition, greater participation in preseason training was significantly and negatively related to the number of games missed due to injury (r = -0.40). In other words, greater preseason participation was related with fewer missed games due to injury. These results support the original concept of previous injury being a strong predictor of future injury. Coaches should keep in mind that players who miss several preseason training sessions may be at greater risk for experiencing an injury later in the season.
Windt, J., Gabbett, T. J., Ferris, D., & Khan, K. M. (2016). Training load–injury paradox: is greater preseason participation associated with lower in-season injury risk in elite rugby league players?. British Journal of Sports Medicine, Ahead of Print.