How do training and competition workloads relate to injury? The workload—injury aetiology model

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Abstract

Injury aetiology models that have evolved over the previous two decades highlight a number of factors which contribute to the causal mechanisms for athletic injuries. These models highlight the pathway to injury, including (1) internal risk factors (eg, age, neuromuscular control) which predispose athletes to injury, (2) exposure to external risk factors (eg, playing surface, equipment), and finally (3) an inciting event, wherein biomechanical breakdown and injury occurs. The most recent aetiological model proposed in 2007 was the first to detail the dynamic nature of injury risk, whereby participation may or may not result in injury, and participation itself alters injury risk through adaptation. However, although training and competition workloads are strongly associated with injury, existing aetiology models neither include them nor provide an explanation for how workloads alter injury risk. Therefore, we propose an updated injury aetiology model which includes the effects of workloads. Within this model, internal risk factors are differentiated into modifiable and non-modifiable factors, and workloads contribute to injury in three ways: (1) exposure to external risk factors and potential inciting events, (2) fatigue, or negative physiological effects, and (3) fitness, or positive physiological adaptations. Exposure is determined solely by total load, while positive and negative adaptations are controlled both by total workloads, as well as changes in load (eg, the acute:chronic workload ratio). Finally, we describe how this model explains the load—injury relationships for total workloads, acute:chronic workload ratios and the training load—injury paradox.

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