The answer is Load!
What is Load? Load is the cumulative description of training volume and intensity. It covers not only Physical Load, but Mental and Emotional Load as well. You can also call it Stress.
Load is the main (and for some the only) cause of overuse injuries. Load is the cause of the fatigued state which leads to significant non-contact injuries such as ACL injuries and hamstring tears. Load can affect judgement and execution of a skill which may place the athlete in a position of increased injury risk.
Load management is key. Progressing through a season-long periodised program is important to avoid too much stress on the body. Don’t get me wrong, stress is good, it creates changes and makes the body adapt to endure said stress. But too much of it is a bad thing. Considering training history is also important. If you haven’t trained in your chosen sport at the intensity you wish to be training at for 1-2 years at least, consider a more graded progression to your chosen level of training. This is particularly important when considering adolescent athletes, who automatically won’t be able tolerate as much load as an adult due to the energy required for growth. If you don’t expect an adult to be able to tolerate a training program, how would you expect a child to?
Biomechanical factors may affect injuries and the effect of load. But these can almost always be overcome and trained in a way to minimise their negative effects. Other factors such as work and caring for children will definitely add to your Load. All physical, mental and emotional Load is important when considering how much Load you are currently experiencing and undertaking.
Knowing this, and accounting for it, will hopefully keep you injury free! It is the biggest cause of Sports Injury we see in the clinic. If you need help managing your load, a Physiotherapist can assist.
Written by Blake Walmsley