Return to Sport Post COVID19 Injury Free
written by Byron Williams,
High Performance Manager
Are you prepared for return to sport after COVID19?
With the NRL and AFL returning, we can all begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some of you may have continued training for the return to sport while some of you may have found it hard without coaches, team mates and games to play. Either way there are challenges ahead when it comes to being prepared for the return to sport.
Simply put, I am expecting to see a huge amount of increased soreness, knee tendinopathy, niggles and many soft tissue injuries as players return to sport if they are not prepared.
There’s still time to get ready for the return to sport. Getting back into performance training and field training needs to be smart right now, with small increases in your training load over the coming weeks.
What is Training Load?
When working with athletes, we always consider their ‘Training Load.’ Training load is an internal measurement in units. Training Load Units = Ratings of Perceived Exertion x Duration.
Using the table on the left, an athlete chooses a description and then a rating number based off that feeling. For example: 60 minutes session x 3 (Moderate Session) = 180 units. Then this is done for every session during the week.
From Go to WHOA!
In recent discussions, clients who are footballers are expecting to have a very intensive second preseason with some mid-week catch up games. So, there will be athletes that will suddenly go from couch surfing to a full schedule of running, kicking and jumping. This is going to have huge ramifications if we aren’t being smart.
Having worked in the industry for over 15 years, I am expecting a lot of injuries due to a lack of mobility, reduced anaerobic fitness and decreased sports specific strength. Gabbett’s (2016) research supports this by showing that when week to week loads increase more than or equal to 15% then injury risk escalated to between 21% and 49% (https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/50/5/273).
So that being said, you need be mindful of how hard you are coming back by spending weeks to progressively increase training load until you reach the levels you will experience in week one of competition. Meaning your first week back needs to be light and increase the training volume by less than 10% (Gabbett, 2016).
During preseason, we like our athletes come in at around 2500-4000 units for training load per week. With this forced pre-season, most of our athletes would be at around 1000 units depending on if they have been going for runs and kicking a footy around with family members. We would want those athletes to start week 1 of pre-season at around 1500 units and increasing to 1650 in week 2 then 1815 in week 3 etc.
In reality, what will happen is most athletes will be back at about 2500 units and increasing to 3000 or by week 2. This return is too fast and is likely to lead to injury.
Of course, there have been quite a few athletes that have kept up their performance training (2000+ units per week) during this forced off-season. However, they too need to prepare for the intensity of returning to weekly training sessions with their teams and playing games.
Here’s What to Do
There are still a few weeks until larger groups can train, so you can begin focusing on specific movements required by your sport and also working on:
- Trunk/Hip/Knee/Ankle stability
- Speed & Agility (building up volume and distances)
- Strength, Power
- Anaerobic/Aerobic fitness capacities.
What should you do right now?
I’d like to see people who have done very little performance training to start adding something to their week – every day! For example, start getting back into the gym with short and effective workouts until you are building up a capacity and resiliency to be back to full intensive workouts.
For speed/agility just start with less sets, short distances and then build up to more sets and even adding longer distance sprints.
For the people who have trained, they need to get the 10% increase in their weekly load by: adding an extra set to your strength, increasing weights by approximately 5%. Adding an extra session or slightly increasing the duration of your session.
Doing this now will give you a chance to be somewhat ready for the weeks of training and games ahead. Stay injury free and really enjoy getting back with your team and playing the sport you love!