Training Load and Injury: Causal Pathways and Future Directions.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sports Medicine, 2021, 51, (6), pp. 1137-1150
Issue Date:
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Causal pathways between training loads and the mechanisms of tissue damage and athletic injury are poorly understood. Here, the relation between specific training load measures and metrics, and causal pathways of gradual onset and traumatic injury are examined. Currently, a wide variety of internal and external training load measures and metrics exist, with many of these being commonly utilized to evaluate injury risk. These measures and metrics can conceptually be related to athletic injury through the mechanical load-response pathway, the psycho-physiological load-response pathway, or both. However, the contributions of these pathways to injury vary. Importantly, tissue fatigue damage and trauma through the mechanical load-response pathway is poorly understood. Furthermore, considerable challenges in quantifying this pathway exist within applied settings, evidenced by a notable absence of validation between current training load measures and tissue-level mechanical loads. Within this context, the accurate quantification of mechanical loads holds considerable importance for the estimation of tissue damage and the development of more thorough understandings of injury risk. Despite internal load measures of psycho-physiological load speculatively being conceptually linked to athletic injury through training intensity and the effects of psycho-physiological fatigue, these measures are likely too far removed from injury causation to provide meaningful, reliable relationships with injury. Finally, we used a common training load metric as a case study to show how the absence of a sound conceptual rationale and spurious links to causal mechanisms can disclose the weaknesses of candidate measures as tools for altering the likelihood of injuries, aiding the future development of more refined injury risk assessment methods.
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