Objectives: To investigate if reductions in pre-season training loads reduced the incidence of training injuries in rugby league players, and to determine if the reductions in training loads compromised the improvements in physical fitness obtained during the pre-season preparation period.
Methods: A total of 220 sub-elite rugby league players participated in this 3 year prospective study. Players underwent measurements of speed, muscular power, and maximal aerobic power before and after three 4 month (December to March) pre-season preparation periods (2001–2003). A periodised skills and conditioning program was implemented, with training loads progressively increased in the general preparatory phase of the season (December to February) and reduced slightly in March in preparation for the competitive phase of the season. Training loads were calculated by multiplying the training session intensity by the duration of the training session. Following the initial season (2001), training loads were reduced through reductions in training duration (2002) and training intensity (2003). The incidence of injury was prospectively recorded over the three pre-season periods.
Results: The training loads for the 2002 and 2003 pre-season periods were significantly lower (p<0.001) than those in 2001. The incidence of injury was significantly higher in the 2001 pre-season than the 2002 and 2003 pre-season periods. The increases in maximal aerobic power progressively improved across the three seasons with a 62–88% probability that the 2002 and 2003 pre-season improvements in maximal aerobic power were of greater physiological significance than the 2001 pre-season improvements in maximal aerobic power.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that reductions in pre-season training loads reduce training injury rates in rugby league players and result in greater improvements in maximal aerobic power.
- MCID, minimum clinically important difference
- RPE, rating of perceived exertion
- injury prevention
- rugby league
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Conflict of interest: none declared.