Reducing Injury Risk: Should You Train Smarter and Harder?

Oct 17, 2017

Commonly, most people believe that the harder you train, the more susceptible you are to injuries. However, there’s also evidence that training can protect you from injuries.

Research shows that when athletes maintain high chronic workloads, they are less susceptible to injury, due to the fact that the training has a protective effect against injury. On the other hand, athletes with low chronic workloads or those who have rapid increases in acute workload are more susceptible to injury.

A 2016 study by Gabbett shows a phenomenon in which athletes accustomed to high training loads have fewer injuries than athletes training at lower workloads. This is described as Training-Injury Prevention Paradox in the study.

High Training Loads = Fewer Injuries?

There is a relationship between high training loads and injuries. But well-developed physical qualities protect against injury.

Does training harder really protect you from injuries? The research says so. Athletes with high chronic workloads can tolerate moderate to high acute workloads better than those with low chronic workloads.

Simply put, a high chronic workload can protect you from injury because your fitness level is higher. This also means if you’re not accustomed to training heavily and all of a sudden, you’re having a high workload, you’re likely to get injured. You went beyond your normal capability to adapt to those stresses.

If you keep training in low workloads, it does reduce your risk of injury. But the problem comes in if your activity requires higher workloads. That’s when you’re at a higher risk of getting injured. You performed inadequate training to develop fitness.

Heavy chronic training can be preventative and reduce the risk of sustaining soft tissue injuries. A well-managed progressive training load can allow you to train harder and longer without increased risk of injury.

Acute training loads can be a single session. However, in team sports, a week of training can be acute as well. On the other hand, chronic training loads can be 3-6 weeks of training.

Acute: Chronic Ratio

The ratio of acute to chronic training load predicts injury better than acute or chronic loads in isolation.

In terms of preparedness, if an athlete has a low acute load, and has a rolling average of high training load, the athlete will be in a well-prepared state. But if the acute load is high and the chronic training is low, then the athlete will be less prepared.

Making use of acute: chronic workload ratio emphasizes both the good and the bad in training. In addition, this ratio considers the training load an athlete performed relative to the training load he/she has been training for.

Monitoring Training Load

In high-performance sport, monitoring training load becomes popular to make sure athletes get enough training and minimise the negative effects of training such as burnout and injury.

Workload tracking for elite athletes is captured by GPS. For amateur sports, it can be monitored by calculating training load (RPE x duration of training minutes).

The Key to Minimising Injury

The key to reducing your risk of injury is to maintain a similar chronic workload with your acute workload.

Whilst high training loads have been commonly associated with injury, study shows that the problem isn’t the training, but more likely the inappropriate way of training. If you train beyond your physical capabilities, then you might be in for non-contact, soft tissue injuries.

Physically hard BUT appropriate training helps you develop physical qualities, which in turn protect against injuries.  To reduce training-related injuries in long term, monitoring your training load comes in handy.

The relationship between training load, injury, fitness and performance are critical to physiotherapy. Here at Happy Physio, we understand the value of hard training. We can help you reach your fitness goals, whilst minimising risk and maximising your body’s potential.

Need expert advice? Speak to any of our Perth physiotherapists on 9272 7359!