The buzzword in the world of sport nowadays is ‘Load management’.
Load management has emerged as a tool for injury prevention and cure. It improves training programmes with the help of professional data analysis. Despite all the hype about load management protocols, there is plenty of misinformation and misunderstanding about it. Let’s try to decode the concept.
One of the most invalid notions about load management is that it always means less playing time for athletes. There will be times when players will need to be rested, but there is nothing intrinsically wrong about high loads. High loads can actually be protective against injury, while over-resting may actually do more harm – by injuring a player – than good.
With all the travelling, untimely meals, interrupted sleep patterns, and back-to-back games, the IPL is especially taxing on the players. Lower back strains, hamstring injuries, and other specific injuries sustained by many players underlines the importance of resting players who play lots of matches. But stress should also be laid on the quality and quantity of training that is performed in preparation for those playing the games effectively during the period. When competition outweighs training, and time is not adequate for recovery and preparations, should we be surprised that the load applied exceeds the body’s ability to tolerate that load?
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There is an underlying fear among some coaches, support staff and organisations about implementing sports science protocols. Many may not voice it in public, but behind closed doors or off the record, the value of it is being discussed threadbare.
The field of sports science is to negate doubts with empirical solutions and data, and bring in a new perspective and belief. If a sports scientist stops someone from playing or training, it sends a wrong message – that the system doesn’t have faith in players to be adaptable, robust, and resilient. Load management tools and those managing those tools are instead duty bound to make players reach peak performance more often.
Poor loading practices and injuries are directly proportional to each other. When chronic loads are low or when loads are increased sharply, risk of injuries rises. The evidence supporting injury prediction models is nearly non-existent, but soft-tissue injuries can be predicted if there is sufficient data. Many companies claim to predict up to 95-98 percent of future injuries which is too good to be true.
Nevertheless, even the best training programmes cannot eliminate injuries altogether. Nor can they predict them with perfect accuracy.
Professional load management protocols enhance peak performance with utmost safety by minimising injuries. All the stakeholders in the team – S&C coaches, physios, data analytical staff, coaches, and sports medicine teams, etc. – need to focus on the controllables.
Load management helps document training and competition demands, but merely knowing risk factors will not reduce injuries. Athletes need to load smart to withstand load demand. There is a peak demand in intensity – both physically and mentally – and when the players are pushed to the wall and challenged, that’s where the game is won and lost.
During this time, many players become susceptible to injuries. Developing adaptability during this period is the real challenge.
Optimal loading on chronic loads is critical to meet the demand of the sport. A highly individualised programme is key to avoiding and minimising injuries, and to efficiently increasing peak performance. Various parameters – acute loads, chronic loads, rpe, and ratios of acute to chronic loads data – need to be deciphered smartly to get the best desired data. With data come programme variables and protocols.
To sum up, load management is a great tool whose effectiveness depends on how one uses it for the benefit of the players.