The Acute: Workload Ratio Predicts Injury: High Chronic Workload May Decrease Injury Risk in Elite Rugby League Players

Hulin, B. T.; Gabbett, T. J.; Lawson, D. W.; Caputi, P.; Sampson, J. A.

Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate whether acute workload (1 week total distance) and chronic workload (4-week average acute workload) predict injury in elite rugby league players.

Methods: Data were collected from 53 elite players over two rugby league seasons. The ‘acute
workload ratio’ was calculated by dividing acute workload by chronic workload. A value greater than 1 represented an acute workload greater than chronic workload. All workload data were classified into discrete ranges by z-scores.

Results: A very-high acute
workload ratio (≥2.11) demonstrated the greatest risk of injury in the current week (16.7% injury risk) and subsequent week (11.8% injury risk) compared to all other ratios. High chronic workload (>16 095 m) combined with a very-high 2-week average acute
workload ratio (≥1.54) was associated with the greatest risk of injury (28.6% injury risk). High chronic workload combined with a moderate workload ratio (1.02–1.18) had a smaller risk of injury than low chronic workload combined with several workload ratios (relative risk range from 0.3 to 0.7×/÷1.4 to 4.4; likelihood range=88–94%, likely). Considering acute and chronic workloads in isolation (i.e., not as ratios) did not consistently predict injury risk.

Conclusions: Higher workloads can have either positive or negative influences on injury risk in elite rugby league players. Specifically, compared with players who have a low chronic workload, players with a high chronic workload are more resistant to injury with moderate-low through moderate-high (0.85–1.35) acute
workload ratios and less resistant to injury when subjected to ‘spikes’ in acute workload, that is, very-high acute
workload ratios ∼1.5.

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