For the players who have ever rocked up to a pre-season training session and be told we are doing a 5km time trial tonight and thinking to themselves “far out it’s my first run since the last game of footy”. There is a story in every sporting team where there are players who hate preseason and avoid it until the last possible moment. This is what we are trying to avoid. We have all known the frustrated coach, who is disappointed in everyone’s efforts at training that he lines the team to do 400s as a punishment. In doing so, he potentially pushes players over their anaerobic threshold that increases the likelihood of injury. Gabbett (2016) states that in a study of Australian football players 40% of injuries were associated with a rapid change (>10%) in weekly training load in the preceding week.
The warning signs of ‘Too much too soon’ to look out for are:
· sharp pain during or after training
· excessive tightness or soreness after training
· muscle soreness in sites of previous injury
· rapid increase of running volume or running intensity
· not wanting to return to training
For some country sporting teams, the preseason phase is where major errors in load management occur and some players are doing ‘Too much Too Soon’. A major concern with preseason running programs, is that majority of clubs still train with the old mentality of every player must do the same running drills and strength and conditioning circuits. The major concern with loading players too rapidly, too quickly, is that it also significantly increases the risk of injury. Avoiding injury during the preseason phase can maximize players’ opportunity to build a solid fitness base, that is likely beneficial when dealing with the demands of the competitive season. Specifically, during the pre-season there seems to be a positive relationship between training load and probability of injury, that is, the higher the training load, the greater the probability of injury.
Injury prevention sessions have become a growing and common aspect of team sports programmes. Supplemented with weight training, injury prevention applications prompt essential gains in strength, reductions in joint weakness and aids in correcting muscle imbalances experienced by athletes. These strategies assist in becoming more accustomed to dealing with game-like loading patterns, therefore building a stronger more durable athlete. A generic program is sufficient for all squad members, emphasizing work on the areas with the highest injury prevalence (i.e. hamstring, calf, hips/groins). ACL injury is a common injury amongst athletes which is why injury prevention sessions throughout the preseason and competition phases are critical. If you have injured your ACL in the past the ACL Rehabilitation Guide by Mick Hughes & Randall Cooper is a fantastic rehabilitation protocol to follow post-injury. Tips to avoid injury / ‘Too Much Too Soon’ during the preseason
· Recovery protocols post-training (easy cardio, stretch, foam roller, ice baths)
· If you have had more than one week off running, decrease load by 10% next session
· Ensure that your strength and conditioning program complements your preseason training program, transitioning to power and speed.
· Change training program if niggles and injury occur.
· Prior to starting preseason start increasing Aerobic fitness i.e. bike, swimming, rowing.
· If injured and returning halfway through preseason follow the guidance of a physio and speak with the coach about a modified running program before joining in with main group.
A simple approach to reduce injuries and increase performance
If looking to increase performance in the offseason or preseason, a loading protocol that will help is the 3-1 loading system. Weeks 1-3 of the cycle you will gradually increase volume and intensity and then week 4 you will have a de-load week. This de-load week gives the body a chance to recover and adapt to the previous 3 weeks of training and return better than before. This is called super-compensation and is a vital part of an exercise regime.
Gabbett, T.J. (2016) The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 50: 273–280.
Hughes, M & Cooper, R. (2019) ACL Rehabilitation Guide. Retrieved from https://www.melbournehipandknee.com.au/pdf/acl-guide-melbourne-hip-and-knee.pdf
FREE AFL Performance Fundamentals PDF
Guiding Coaches, Teacher and Athletes on the path to success in sport and performance.