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Has the athlete trained enough to return to play safely? The acute:chronic workload ratio permits clinicians to quantify a player's risk of subsequent injury
  1. Peter Blanch1,2,
  2. Tim J Gabbett3,4
  1. 1Essendon Football Club, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2School of Allied Health Sciences, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
  3. 3School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Australia
  4. 4School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Peter Blanch, Essendon Football Club, 275 Melrose Dr, Melbourne Airport, Vic, 3045; peterblanch{at}gmail.com

Abstract

The return to sport from injury is a difficult multifactorial decision, and risk of reinjury is an important component. Most protocols for ascertaining the return to play status involve assessment of the healing status of the original injury and functional tests which have little proven predictive ability. Little attention has been paid to ascertaining whether an athlete has completed sufficient training to be prepared for competition. Recently, we have completed a series of studies in cricket, rugby league and Australian rules football that have shown that when an athlete's training and playing load for a given week (acute load) spikes above what they have been doing on average over the past 4 weeks (chronic load), they are more likely to be injured. This spike in the acute:chronic workload ratio may be from an unusual week or an ebbing of the athlete's training load over a period of time as in recuperation from injury. Our findings demonstrate a strong predictive (R2=0.53) polynomial relationship between acute:chronic workload ratio and injury likelihood. In the elite team setting, it is possible to quantify the loads we are expecting athletes to endure when returning to sport, so assessment of the acute:chronic workload ratio should be included in the return to play decision-making process.

  • Injury
  • Risk factor

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