Protection Against Spikes in Workload With Aerobic Fitness and Playing Experience: The Role of the Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio on Injury Risk in Elite Gaelic Football

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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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.

Malone and Doran are with the Research Inst for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK. Roe and Collins are with the Gaelic Sports Research Centre, Inst of Technology Tallaght, Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland. Gabbett is with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Shane Malone at