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Debunking the myths about training load, injury and performance: empirical evidence, hot topics and recommendations for practitioners
  1. Tim J Gabbett1,2
  1. 1 Gabbett Performance Solutions, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
  2. 2 University of Southern Queensland, Institute for Resilient Regions, Ipswich, QLD, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Tim J Gabbett, Gabbett Performance Solutions, Brisbane, QLD, Australia and University of Southern Queensland, Institute for Resilient Regions, Ipswich, QLD, Australia; tim{at}

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A substantial amount of research has tested the relationship between training load and injury.1 Given that sports injuries compromise team success,2 3 team administrators, players and coaches are now interested in this field. As team injury data are widely available through various internet sources (eg, Man Games Lost,, sports medicine staff are commonly evaluated based on the number of injuries sustained (or not sustained) by their playing rosters.

A search of the ‘PubMed’ database shows that in the past 18 years, there has been a rapid growth in ‘training load’ and ‘injury’ research, increasing from 9 papers in 2000 to 145 in 2017 (figure 1). Despite this growing body of literature, evidence-based guidelines to reduce workload-related injury are often poorly implemented due to the level of expertise or understanding of the high-performance team (including the skill coaches, strength and conditioning or medical staff) or their individual beliefs and experiences (cognitive biases, confirmation biases). This can lead to a disconnect between the evidence supporting training load and its role in injury, and the actual training programmes prescribed.4 Five common myths and misconceptions about training load and its role in injury and performance are reviewed in this paper.

Figure 1

Growth in research including the keywords ‘training’ AND ‘injury’ since 2000.

Myth 1: load explains all injuries

The relationship between training, performance and injury has been of interest to researchers and practitioners for considerable time.1 5–15 Both individual16 and team17–19 performance can be explained, at least in part by training load, with higher training loads generally associated with better performance. Equally, a large body of evidence has emerged suggesting that inappropriately prescribed training load may increase injury risk20–25 and pain.26 Based on these findings, a myopic view would be that ‘load’ explains all injuries.

The multifactorial determinants of both performance and …

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  • Contributors TJG is responsible for the content in this manuscript.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests TJG works as a consultant to several high-performance organisations, including sporting teams, industry, military and higher education institutions. He serves in a voluntary capacity as Senior Associate Editor of BJSM.

  • Patient consent Not required.

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