NRL and AFL have returned in the early parts of June, and community sport is due to start sometime in July and August. In the first round since the COVID crisis, many of the injuries sustained could be put down to a lack of match practice, and not enough training.
The intricacies of load management are complicated, but the basic premise is this; the body needs to be gradually exposed to a new or a harder stimulus. It will often struggle to cope with a sudden increase in load.
That doesn’t just mean in terms of strength or fitness, but even things like positioning of the body to make a tackle. In the Newcastle Knights first game back, they had 2 concussions within the first 15 minutes, both attributable to poor positioning to make a tackle.
The concern is that this will then flow on to community sport. It’s not just the hammy or calf that may be injured, but ACL’s, concussions, and ankle sprains as well.
The concept of load management has had a tough time in the media as of late, and this is due to a poor understanding of what it means. Load management is NOT about taking players out of games. It is about maximizing playing time, for the least injury risk.
Check out the above graph. It shows the workload over a 17 week period (prior to COVID) of a football team during their pre season and part of the start of the season. You can see here that apart from the occasional spike or trough, the workload for the team is roughly the same. Workload here is calculated by effort out of 10 times the length of a session. So a session that was 8/10 for a player, over 60 minutes would be 480.
Now check out the above graph. This is what a lot of physiotherapists and doctors are worried about. The potential for a lot of people who are going from doing nothing, to suddenly having a big spike in load, with little or no training beforehand. The end result is a huge amount of injuries, both acute and chronic. A lot has been written about this in media lately
So what can we do to avoid this?
There is a lot you can do to prevent these injuries from occurring.
The first thing is – train, train, train. Not just with the team. Get back to changing direction with cones, expose yourself to high speed running. A lot if non- contact injuries occur when reacting to an external force (eg when stepping away from a defender trying to tackle you). Get into contact training, re- learn how to step and react to movement around you. Work on your body positioning.
Train early, and often.
Work on your cardiovascular fitness. Many injuries occur due to fatigue. Thats when your technique becomes sloppy, and more prone to injuries.
If you have any doubts, get screened by your physio!
There are a lot of tests that we can do to determine your readiness. Range of motion, strength, hopping tests, can all be used to examine your risk.
In the end, a lot of this comes down to the individual- you. Are you taking short cuts? Are you going the extra mile to minimize your injury? There are some things that we as health professionals can do, but more than you can do to help yourself!