Are players losing robustness?

Interesting interview with Rio Ferdinand on sports science, and robbing players of their “robustness”.

As sports scientists / S&C practitioners our job is to protect players from injury and make them more robust, and as an ex-player I agree with some of Rio’s points here:…/Rio-Ferdinand-fears-sports-sci…

Research by Dr Tim Gabbett has shown that players can train safely, (smart) at high loads (harder). There for you can train hard, with staying safe. Training at low loads, can increase injury risk and training at very high loads can seriously increase injury risk. Training at a high load consistently can help players become resistance to soft tissue injuries, but what needs to be addressed is the “sweet spot” where players can train hard, but smart in order that they can continually perform. The questions then arise on how we can come to find that sweet spot, and allow players to train at a consistently high loads without risking injury.

To attain this we need to bring in the acute:chronic workload ratio. Briefly explained – if your players acute (weekly) workload is higher than his chronic workload (an average of the last 4 weeks) then the player is looking down the injury barrel.

According to Gabbett (2016), “the critical variable—acute:chronic workload ratio)—as a best practice predictor of training-related injuries. This provides the foundation for interventions to reduce players risk, and thus, time-loss injuries”

So for example, the research showed that in Rugby players, the ratio number was 1.5 (see graph below). So, any sudden “spike” in training (a higher than normal workload) over one week above the magic 1.5 ratio left them open to injury risk.

An easy way to think of a sudden spike in training lets look at an example of a group team mates that have been away for 3 months in Ibiza (lucky!), and then suddenly return to a “Pre Season” for the local pub side, where first few sessions are to run the hell out of them. A few weeks into pre season and the half the squad have soft tissue injuries due to the sudden spikes in training load.

Having spent attended a couple of Tim’s presentations, here are some of the key points:

– The problem isn’t training per se, but it could be the training that is being prescribed.

– Excessive  and rapid increases  in training loads are likely responsible for non contact, soft-tissue injuries.

– Physically hard (and appropriate) training  offers a protective effect  against injuries due to its mediating effect on the development of physical qualities.Its how you get there that is the real issue!

Spikes in load are the best predictors of injury.

-Monitoring training load, including the load that athletes are prepared for, offers a best practice approach to the long-term reduction of injuries.

-Within group average data, you can start to manage players on individual basis,

-Injury prediction – not crystal balling, we are talking about probability. All we are doing is using load data to inform our player management.

-When we increase load more than 10% per week, the probability of injury increases.

– Small changes in load can elevate risk, get through it safely, push a bit, pull back, prescribe high training loads allows us to identify players who cant tolerate high loads, and identify the more robust athletes.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 20.28.30

Train hard, but be smart!!

For further reading (open access):

Gabbett, T.J. (2016). The training-injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder?…/…/2016/01/12/bjsports-2015-095788.full


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: