Sports injury

Training Load and Its Role in Injury Prevention, Part I: Back to the Future.

Impellizzeri, F. M., Menaspà, P., Coutts, A. J., Kalkhoven, J., & Menaspà, M. J. (2020) – Journal of Athletic Training, 55(9), 885–892. 


The purpose of this 2-part commentary series is to explain why we believe our ability to control injury risk by manipulating training load (TL) in its current state is an illusion and why the foundations of this illusion are weak and unreliable. In part 1, we introduce the training process framework and contextualize the role of TL monitoring in the injury-prevention paradigm. In part 2, we describe the conceptual and methodologic pitfalls of previous authors who associated TL and injury in ways that limited their suitability for the derivation of practical recommendations. The first important step in the training process is developing the training program: the practitioner develops a strategy based on available evidence, professional knowledge, and experience. 

For decades, exercise strategies have been based on the fundamental training principles of overload and progression. Training-load monitoring allows the practitioner to determine whether athletes have completed training as planned and how they have coped with the physical stress. Training load and its associated metrics cannot provide a quantitative indication of whether particular load progressions will increase or decrease the injury risk, given the nature of previous studies (descriptive and at best predictive) and their methodologic weaknesses. The overreliance on TL has moved the attention away from the multifactorial nature of injury and the roles of other important contextual factors. We argue that no evidence supports the quantitative use of TL data to manipulate future training with the purpose of preventing injury. Therefore, determining ‘‘how much is too much’’ and how to properly manipulate and progress TL are currently subjective decisions based on generic training principles and our experience of adjusting training according to an individual athlete’s response. Our message to practitioners is to stop seeking overly simplistic solutions to complex problems and instead embrace the risks and uncertainty inherent in the training process and injury prevention.