Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio: Conceptual Issues and Fundamental Pitfalls.

Publisher:
HUMAN KINETICS PUBL INC
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International journal of sports physiology and performance, 2020, 15, (6), pp. 907-913
Issue Date:
2020-06-05
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The number of studies examining associations between training load and injury has increased exponentially. As a result, many new measures of exposure and training-load-based prognostic factors have been created. The acute:chronic workload ratio (ACWR) is the most popular. However, when recommending the manipulation of a prognostic factor in order to alter the likelihood of an event, one assumes a causal effect. This introduces a series of additional conceptual and methodological considerations that are problematic and should be considered. Because no studies have even tried to estimate causal effects properly, manipulating ACWR in practical settings in order to change injury rates remains a conjecture and an overinterpretation of the available data. Furthermore, there are known issues with the use of ratio data and unrecognized assumptions that negatively affect the ACWR metric for use as a causal prognostic factor. ACWR use in practical settings can lead to inappropriate recommendations, because its causal relation to injury has not been established, it is an inaccurate metric (failing to normalize the numerator by the denominator even when uncoupled), it has a lack of background rationale to support its causal role, it is an ambiguous metric, and it is not consistently and unidirectionally related to injury risk. Conclusion: There is no evidence supporting the use of ACWR in training-load-management systems or for training recommendations aimed at reducing injury risk. The statistical properties of the ratio make the ACWR an inaccurate metric and complicate its interpretation for practical applications. In addition, it adds noise and creates statistical artifacts.
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