Piggy-backing last weeks post about pre-season training camp and hydration, today’s discussion pertains to pre-season injury rates. Take a walk past the therapy room after the first day of camp and you’ll see a very busy staff of athletic trainers and physical therapists. As camp progresses, more and more athletes will be seeking therapy for the injuries they incur from practice. Though this is common, it should not be considered acceptable.
Just recently, the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine published a descriptive epidemiological study that assessed injury rates from practice at different parts of a season among NCAA athletes of all divisions, genders and various sports (Agel & Schisel 2013). The results showed that a) injury rates are considerably higher during pre-season practices b) Women’s soccer has the highest preseason injury rate c) Men’s football had the highest increased risk of injury comparing preseason with in-season practice injury.
Certainly, injury risk can be reduced with effective physical preparation. However, the extremely high volume of high intensity practice concentrated in a span of 1-2 weeks is very hard to condition for. Perhaps the simplest and most effective way at reducing injury risk during this time period is to simply reduce training loads. Gabbett (2004) collected data on 220 rugby players over 3 consecutive rugby seasons. The first season of data collection had the highest training loads and the highest incidence of injury. The second and third season had reductions in training volume and intensity. Injury rates decreased significantly while maximal aerobic power increased.
Reducing injury during the preseason period requires a collective approach from all departments within an organization. This includes the strength and conditioning staff, the sports medicine staff, and the sports coaches themselves. It is an undeniable fact that injury risk increases as training load increases.
Agel, J., & Schisel, J. (2013). Practice injury rates in collegiate sports. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 23(1), 33-38.
Gabbett, T. J. (2004). Reductions in pre-season training loads reduce training injury rates in rugby league players. British journal of sports medicine, 38(6), 743-749.