Impellizzeri, F. M., McCall, A., Ward, P., Bornn, L., & Coutts, A. J. (2020). Journal of Athletic Training, 55(9), 893–901.
In part 2 of this clinical commentary, we highlight the conceptual and methodologic pitfalls evident in current training-load–injury research. These limitations make these studies unsuitable for determining how to use new metrics such as acute workload, chronic workload, and their ratio for reducing injury risk. The main overarching concerns are the lack of a conceptual framework and reference models that do not allow for appropriate interpretation of the results to define a causal structure.
The lack of any conceptual framework also gives investigators too many degrees of freedom, which can dramatically increase the risk of false discoveries and confirmation bias by forcing the interpretation of results toward common beliefs and accepted training principles. Specifically, we underline methodologic concerns relating to (1) measure of exposures, (2) pitfalls of using ratios, (3) training-load measures, (4) time windows, (5) discretization and reference category, (6) injury definitions, (7) unclear analyses, (8) sample size and generalizability, (9) missing data, and (10) standards and quality of reporting.
Given the pitfalls of previous studies, we need to return to our practices before this research influx began, when practitioners relied on traditional training principles (eg, overload progression) and adjusted training loads based on athletes’ responses. Training-load measures cannot tell us whether the variations are increasing or decreasing the injury risk; we recommend that practitioners still rely on their expert knowledge and experience.