The Influence of In-Season Training Loads on Injury Risk in Professional Rugby Union

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

To explore the association between in-season training-load (TL) measures and injury risk in professional rugby union players.

Methods:

This was a 1-season prospective cohort study of 173 professional rugby union players from 4 English Premiership teams. TL (duration × session-RPE) and time-loss injuries were recorded for all players for all pitch- and gym-based sessions. Generalized estimating equations were used to model the association between in-season TL measures and injury in the subsequent week.

Results:

Injury risk increased linearly with 1-wk loads and week-to-week changes in loads, with a 2-SD increase in these variables (1245 AU and 1069 AU, respectively) associated with odds ratios of 1.68 (95% CI 1.05–2.68) and 1.58 (95% CI 0.98–2.54). When compared with the reference group (<3684 AU), a significant nonlinear effect was evident for 4-wk cumulative loads, with a likely beneficial reduction in injury risk associated with intermediate loads of 5932–8651 AU (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.22–1.38) (this range equates to around 4 wk of average in-season TL) and a likely harmful effect evident for higher loads of >8651 AU (OR 1.39, 95% CI 0.98–1.98).

Conclusions:

Players had an increased risk of injury if they had high 1-wk cumulative loads (1245 AU) or large week-to-week changes in TL (1069 AU). In addition, a U-shaped relationship was observed for 4-wk cumulative loads, with an apparent increase in risk associated with higher loads (>8651 AU). These measures should therefore be monitored to inform injury-risk-reduction strategies.

Cross, Williams, Trewartha, and Stokes are with the Dept for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK. Kemp is with Rugby Football Union, Twickenham, UK.

Address author correspondence to Keith Stokes at K.Stokes@bath.ac.uk.
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance