Sports-related workload and injury risk: simply knowing the risks will not prevent injuries

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Abstract

Training loads contribute to sports injury risk but their mitigation has rarely been considered in a sports injury prevention framework. A key concept behind monitoring training loads for injury prevention is to screen for those at increased risk of injury so that workloads can be adjusted to minimise these risks. This review describes how advances in management of workload can be applied as a preventive measure. Primary prevention involves screening for preparticipation load risk factors, such as low training loads, prior to a training period or competition. Secondary prevention involves screening for workloads that are known to precede an injury developing so that modification can be undertaken to mitigate this risk. Tertiary prevention involves rehabilitation practices that include a graded return to training programme to reduce the risk of sustaining a subsequent injury. The association of training loads with injury incidence is now established. Prevention measures such as rule changes that affect the workload of an athlete are universal whereas those that address risk factors of an asymptomatic subgroup are more selective. Prevention measures, when implemented for asymptomatic individuals exhibiting possible injury risk factors, are indicated for an athlete at risk of developing a sports injury. Seven key indicated risks and associated prevention measures are proposed.

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