Review 6 – Availability

What’s up everybody. This is Dan with this month’s rant about how to better decipher research.

Today we gonna look at this highly undervalued prospective study assessing to what extend training modifications due to injury and/or illness contributed to performance success or failure in international T&F athletes. The premise of this one is so simple yet so beautiful as it reminds us how crucial the basics are aka. being available, attending your training session and therefore getting better at your sport. You can’t get better if you don’t practice. And we already have great information out there that a high injury burden or key players missing impacts game outcomes in team sports. Simple as that. So how about we make availability great again, before chasing “advanced strength & conditioning 2.0 methods”?

So, what was done? 33 international T&F athletes were tracked over 5 consecutive seasons accounting for 76 seasons in total. On a weekly basis, injury and illness reports were obtained to check if an athlete’s training had to be modified in the last 6 months prior to a major event. This was defined as an athlete being unable to participate in training or competition of the primary sport due to medical restrictions, as planned by the coaching staff, for more than 24h. So, if you missed one training day, that’s a modified training week. This was then compared to the results each individual athlete achieved during the major competition…and we are talking here about worlds, commonwealth games, and Olympics.

So, what was found? First of all, when we look at the difference between successful athletes and those who missed their goal, we see this huge spread in the amount of modified training. It was concluded that the likelihood of achieving a performance goal increased 7-times in those that completed >80% of planned training.

When we look at this figure, we get a more detailed overview of when and how many training modifications happened due to injury and illness in the success and failure group. 30% of all injuries occurred within the first months of training – may be too much too soon? And most illnesses occurred within 2-months of the event (50%).

With the injuries, interestingly a spike occurred somewhen around the last training block before heading into a deload prior to competition. And we kinda see a similar pattern with getting ill. This is me now speculating…maybe some athletes can’t handle those super intense training blocks very well. For every modified training week, the chance of success significantly reduced the odds by 26%.

So, what does it mean? Well, even in a stopwatch sport, where you literally depend on your physical outputs, attending practice is the most essential part if you wanna succeed…this, of course, in combination with being talented, having the right parents, and having the right citizenship for the sport you wanna exceed in. So, whatever we do or say to our athletes needs to prioritize minimizing any loss of training time. Is your athlete resilient enough to handle the daily loads? Is your athlete aware and educated enough on what to do to minimize getting sick?

Maybe more for team sports athletes, are you prepared enough to survive any “worst-case” scenarios? Those are the big rocks we need to attack first …Also, how cool would have been a differentiation between gym or S&C sessions and just track sessions to see what’s more important after all. What do you think?

Thanks for listening. Always stay critical.

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