Absolute and Relative Load and Injury in Elite Junior Australian Football Players Over 1 Season

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To investigate the association between training and match loads and injury in elite junior Australian football players over 1 competitive season. Methods: Elite junior Australian football players (n = 290, age 17.7 [0.3] y, range 16–18 y) were recruited from the under-18 state league competition in Victoria to report load and injury information. One-week load (session rating of perceived exertion multiplied by duration) and all time-loss injuries were reported using an online sport-injury surveillance system. Absolute load measures (weekly sums) enabled the calculation of relative measures such as the acute:chronic workload ratio. Load measures were modeled against injury outcome (yes/no) using a generalized estimating equation approach, with a 1-wk lag for injury. Results: Low (<300 arbitrary units [au]) and high (>4650 au) 1-wk loads were associated with significantly higher risk of injury. Furthermore, low (<100 au) and high (>850 au) session loads were associated with a higher risk of injury. High strain values (>13,000) were associated with up to a 5-fold increase in the odds of injury. There was a relatively flat-line association between the acute:chronic workload ratio and injury. Conclusions: This study is the first investigation of elite junior athletes demonstrating linear and nonlinear relationships between absolute and relative load measures and injury. Coaches should focus player loads on, or at least close to, the point at which injury risk starts to increase again (2214 au for 1-wk load and 458 au for session load) and use evidence-based strategies across the week and month to help reduce the risk of injury.

Lathlean, Newstead, and Finch are with the Accident Research Centre (MUARC), Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia. Gastin is with the Dept of Dietetics, Human Nutrition and Sport, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Finch is also with the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP), Edith Cowan University, Perth, WA, Australia. Lathlean is also with Exercise and Sport Science, School of Science and Technology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia.

Lathlean (tim.lathlean@une.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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