Members of the Sports Science and Sports Medicine departments at Southampton have had a ground-breaking research study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The paper looks into the area of player loading and injury risk within elite football, with the findings providing a set of initial guidelines for helping to reduce injuries at the top level of the sport.
The study is the first to monitor injury risk using GPS technology to track players’ speed and acceleration, both in training and competitive action.
Saints’ First Team Data Scientist Laura Bowen was the lead researcher, combining her work at the club with her PhD studies at the University of Birmingham.
The findings stated: “An appropriate balance is required between training, competition and recovery to hit peak performance, whilst avoiding injury. However, this balance is not always adequately maintained – highlighted by the higher injury rate in football than many other team sports.
“The results of our study demonstrate that excessively high workloads are associated with the greatest injury risk. However, when the players were exposed to these high loads progressively, over a period of time, the risk of injury reduced significantly.
“Ultimately, players that train harder through safe progressions increase their physical capacity which has a protective effect against injury.”
“The findings of this study provide a set of initial guidelines for helping to reduce the occurrence of injuries in elite football. They show that GPS technology and accelerometers can be used to predict the risk of both contact and non-contact injuries.”
Commenting on the study, Southampton’s Head of Sports Science, Alek Gross, commented: “To increase the chances of success, we need to give our players training loads which push the limits of what they can achieve without exceeding what their bodies can tolerate.
“Footballers who can safely train harder will develop greater resilience and tolerance for the increasing intensity and fatigue of competition, which will be increasingly important for our teams as we continue to compete on the European stage.
“I wish to congratulate Laura, who has worked incredibly hard to combine her day-to-day job with completing applied research that will directly impact on our ability to condition our players at optimum levels to maximise performance and reduce injury risk.
“The research is a further example of the innovative and collaborative nature of the sports science and sports medicine team and highlights our attitude to continued improvement and refinement of our practices.“
To read the study in full, click here.