Background Training and match loads are important for ensuring optimal performance outcomes and achievements of footballers and also have an impact on injury and illness among the players. There had been no prospective study of the training/playing loads of first year Australian Football League (AFL) players and associated influence on injury rates.
Objectives To measure the training and match loads and determine the relationship between loads and injury risk in the first year AFL football players and then compare this to mature 3+ years AFL players.
Design Data was collected through a systematic prospective documentation of the 2009 training-playing loads in all first year AFL players, and a subset of 3+ years players. Data was collected by the club's conditioning or sport science staff weekly for the 2009 competitive season.
Results 64 first year and 58 3+ years players from nine of the 16 AFL clubs were participated in the study. The first year players had significantly higher injury incidence and prevalence rates compared to 3+ years players, leading to both missed matches and missed training sessions. By the end of the 22 matches of the competitive season, the first year players had collectively missed 4.3 times as many matches and 2.6 times as many training sessions as the 3+ years players due to injury. When the number of players available at any competition week was taken into account, the first year players were 14.3 times more likely to miss matches.
Conclusions There was a significantly increased injury risk for first year players compared to more mature AFL players resulting in more missed matches and training sessions.