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Optimal loading: key variables and mechanisms
  1. Philip Glasgow1,
  2. Nicola Phillips2,
  3. Christopher Bleakley3
  1. 1Sports Institute Northern Ireland, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, UK
  2. 2School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  3. 3Christopher Bleakley School of Sport, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Philip Glasgow, Sports Institute Northern Ireland, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, BT37 0QB, UK; philglasgow{at}

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Optimal loading (POLICE vs PRICE)

The acronym PRICE (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation) has traditionally been the cornerstone for treating acute soft tissue injury. Recently, its relevance in some cases has been questioned;1 of particular concern is that protection and rest may correspond with an excessively conservative approach that fails to harness the benefits of progressive tissue loading through exercise.

What is ‘optimal loading’?

Optimal loading may be defined as the load applied to structures that maximises physiological adaptation. Achieving optimal loading is challenging but should be driven by variables such as the tissue type, pathological presentation and the required tissue adaptation for eventual activity. Specific loading goals may include increased tensile strength, collagen reorganisation, increased muscle–tendon unit stiffness or neural reorganisation.

Optimal loading works through various cellular and neural mechanisms to induce a wide range of changes (summarised in figure 1). Manipulation of loading variables can have profound effects on the nature, structure and function of the wider neuromusculoskeletal system.

Figure 1

Effects of mechanical loading.

One variable with …

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  • Contributors PG was responsible for the development of the concept, authorship and preparation of the manuscript. NP and CB contributed significantly to the drafting and revision of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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