To examine the association between combined session rating of perceived exertion (RPE) workload measures and injury risk in elite Gaelic footballers.
Thirty-seven elite Gaelic footballers (mean ± SD age 24.2 ± 2.9 y) from 1 elite squad were involved in a single-season study. Weekly workload (session RPE multiplied by duration) and all time-loss injuries (including subsequent-wk injuries) were recorded during the period. Rolling weekly sums and wk-to-wk changes in workload were measured, enabling the calculation of the acute:chronic workload ratio by dividing acute workload (ie, 1-weekly workload) by chronic workload (ie, rolling-average 4-weekly workload). Workload measures were then modeled against data for all injuries sustained using a logistic-regression model. Odds ratios (ORs) were reported against a reference group.
High 1-weekly workloads (≥2770 arbitrary units [AU], OR = 1.63–6.75) were associated with significantly higher risk of injury than in a low-training-load reference group (<1250 AU). When exposed to spikes in workload (acute:chronic workload ratio >1.5), players with 1 y experience had a higher risk of injury (OR = 2.22) and players with 2–3 (OR = 0.20) and 4–6 y (OR = 0.24) of experience had a lower risk of injury. Players with poorer aerobic fitness (estimated from a 1-km time trial) had a higher injury risk than those with higher aerobic fitness (OR = 1.50–2.50). An acute:chronic workload ratio of (≥2.0) demonstrated the greatest risk of injury.
These findings highlight an increased risk of injury for elite Gaelic football players with high (>2.0) acute:chronic workload ratios and high weekly workloads. A high aerobic capacity and playing experience appears to offer injury protection against rapid changes in workload and high acute:chronic workload ratios. Moderate workloads, coupled with moderate to high changes in the acute:chronic workload ratio, appear to be protective for Gaelic football players.