DERMOT SIMPSON’S COLUMN this week examines the high intensity preparations and how two-thirds of injuries come from training and not playing enough.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool has been in the news recently regarding their enormous injury list and lackluster performances.
Upon joining the club in mid-October, Klopp (pictured above) initiated pre-season intensity training sessions in-between the regular flow of matches. It has also been rumoured that Klopp trained the team on the mornings of evening kick-offs.
These training sessions were not just focused on tactics but included short intense games. Not listening to the well-published research or indeed their own sports science and medical department, Liverpool suffered a plethora of injuries since his appointment.
The club has registered 13 hamstrings muscle injuries in that period where the average for a Premier League team for an entire season is seven.
A hypothetical training load graph (see below) has been proposed by Tim Gabbett, an Australian Sports Scientist. When excessive training load occurs, invariably team performance decreases and injuries increase.
His recent publications on Australian Football League and rugby training load prove that doing ‘too much, too quickly’ has a negative effect on injuries.
He has found that it’s not the total training load, unless it exceeds a high number, but it’s the sudden spikes in training load, that causes injuries. Top-level Premier League teams can play up to 60 games per season when Premier League, FA Cup, Carling Cup and the Champions League are included.
It’s not uncommon for teams to play four or five games in two weeks especially during the busy period after Christmas. It’s in huge contrast to the inter-county GAA season structure.
Over the past two seasons, the Donegal senior football panel had a ratio of 10 trainings to one match during the summer months and almost six trainings for every match pre-championship.
Sixty-six percent of Donegal’s injuries from the past two seasons were from training sessions. Donegal are no different to any other inter-county team. Eighty per cent of times an inter-county player steps onto the pitch, it’s for a training session.
If the GAA season were structured like the AFL model, the intensive training would be performed at the beginning of the season with only maintenance of fitness between the weekly matches.
AFL’s hard training is done in the longer pre-season, which stems from mid November until the end of February. When the season begins, there is a constant flow of games. It’s what the players want to be doing. It’s what the fans want to see. The training to game ratio is much lower, probably 3-4:1, during this period.
In the 2015 AFL season, the semi-finals were played one week before the final. Eventual champions Hawthorn completed 26 games, in the March to September period. If Donegal were to win the Allianz League, Ulster and All-Ireland championships, they would play 15 games in the February to September period.
Many teams aim to ‘peak’ for the latter stages of the Championship. Every year we see a team who are ‘flying’ in the National League but lose both their provincial and first qualifier game. If there was a set-time for pre-season training followed by a weekly schedule of games, this would be less likely to occur.
Match fitness should remain equal among all teams and it wouldn’t give any advantage to Kerry or Dublin, who are preparing for August. There are not many sports where one expects to be in peak condition for just two to three matches.
Arguably, Ulster teams need to be in peak condition from the first provincial game. A maximum of two weeks should separate games in the Allianz League and Championship with a maximum four-week separation between the two competitions.
The league would be better suited to begin in early March, which would bring better weather and probably better attendance. A conclusion of the Allianz League at the end of April would allow four weeks to prepare for the championship.
From there, the championship should have a group stage format with the top two of the four teams in each group progressing to round of 16. A knockout competition would bring two teams to the final.
A Championship that begins at the beginning of June would allow a minimum of three games for each county and at least seven-games for the finalists. It would have the potential to be finished by the end of August.
Bayern Munich (pictured above) visited Doha last week for a week-long training camp. The trip to Qatar coincides with the final two weeks of a four-week Bundesliga break. They’ve completed around 25 games this season, which comprises of half their season.
Two weeks complete rest from football followed by a mini-preseason is ideal to lead the team into the second half of the season. One could argue that the break between the Allianz League League and championship is a break from training but in reality, teams are training hardest in this period.
Bayern Munich have played enough games to deserve a break while the GAA season is entering it’s ‘second pre-season’ despite having trained for five months!
A shorter gap between games and competitions would vastly reduce over-training injuries.
Dermot Simpson is a physiotherapist currently working at Aspetar, a world renowned sports medicine clinic in Doha, Qatar. Dermot has been team physiotherapist for Donegal senior football team from the 2012 to 2015 seasons.
He holds an undergraduate degree in physiotherapy and as well as a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy from UCD, Dublin. Dermot is the owner of Donegal Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic in Letterkenny and Inishowen Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic in Carndonagh.
He writes a regular column on sporting injuries, injury prevention and rehabilitation for Donegal Sports Hub.Tags: