Relationship Between Running Loads And Soft-Tissue Injury In Elite Team Sport Athletes

Gabbett TJ, Ullah S

Objective: Although the potential link between running loads and soft-tissue injury is appealing, the evidence supporting or refuting this relationship in high-performance team sport athletes is nonexistent, with all published studies using subjective measures (e.g., ratings of perceived exertion) to quantify training loads. The purpose of this study was to investigate the risk of low-intensity (e.g., walking, jogging, total distances) and high-intensity (e.g., high acceleration and velocity efforts, repeated high-intensity exercise bouts) movement activities on lower body soft-tissue injury in elite team sport athletes.

Participants: Thirty-four elite rugby league players participated in this study.

Methods: Global positioning system data and the incidence of lower body soft-tissue injuries were monitored in 117 skill training sessions during the preseason and in-season periods. The frailty model (an extension of the Cox proportional regression model for recurrent events) was applied to calculate the relative risk of injury after controlling for all other training data.

Results: The risk of injury was 2.7 (95% confidence interval 1.2–6.5) times higher when very high–velocity running (i.e., sprinting) exceeded 9 m per session. Greater distances covered in mild, moderate, and maximum accelerations and low- and very low–intensity movement velocities were associated with a reduced risk of injury.

Conclusion: These results demonstrate that greater amounts of very high–velocity running (i.e., sprinting) are associated with an increased risk of lower body soft-tissue injury, whereas distances covered at low and moderate speeds offer a protective effect against soft-tissue injury. From an injury prevention perspective, these findings provide empirical support for restricting the amount of sprinting performed in preparation for elite team sport competition. However, coaches should also consider the consequences of reducing training loads on the development of physical qualities and playing performance.

View this research