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Scientists developed a new way to predict and avoid injuries in sports

Posted August 3, 2016

In football, as in every other sport, it is impossible to completely avoid injuries. However, it is important to minimize the number of them and science is always the best way to achieve that. Now the University of Birmingham and Southampton Football Club developed a new way to predict injuries in football games.

Playing football is a lot of fun, but in professional sports it is accompanied by a high risk of getting injured. Image credit: Derrick Mealiffe via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-2.0

Playing football is a lot of fun, but in professional sports it is accompanied by a high risk of getting injured. Image credit: Derrick Mealiffe via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-2.0

This method relies on the data, collected during training and competitions, and provides new guidelines helping to prevent injuries. Scientists used GPS and accelerometers to analyse physical activity of players and found that the risk to get an injury is the highest when players accumulate a very high number of short bursts of speed during training over a three-week period. Although it seems to be very simple in its methods, this study actually is the first of its kind to use GPS technology to track the speed and acceleration of the players during training sessions and competition.

Scientists say that it has been clear that workloads and injuries are related. However, it is more important how the workload is being presented. If players face these workloads progressively, they are much less likely to get injures. Safe exercising may help players develop their resilience to injuries and help them avoid them during actual games.

Dr François-Xavier Li, one of the authors of the study, explained: “To increase the chances of success, coaches give players training loads which push the boundaries of what footballers can achieve without exceeding what their bodies can tolerate”. In other words, an appropriate balance between seeking for higher goals and developing resilience to injuries has to be maintained, but football remains one of the most injury-prone sports.

In order to get these findings, scientists used GPS devices to track players’ travelled distance, distance ran at high speed, short bursts of speed and loads experienced. It helped researchers developing some specific guidelines. Scientists suggest that total high speed running and loads experienced should fluctuate, focusing on both high and low workloads. Increasing fitness levels may help athletes avoid contact injuries as well, as they would be tougher and could react quicker.

Studies like these are especially important in professional sports, where athletes have to maintain a positive balance between the time spend improving their performance and recovering after difficult games. It is likely that GPS and other technologies will be employed into sports sciences even more in the future.


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