World Cup Fever! How load management impacts performance and injury prevention

By Jon Warne

The world’s biggest sporting event is already at the halfway mark, and for those staying up late and waking up early to catch each match, sleep debt and fatigue are taking their toll. One of the most common injuries seen in avid watchers is neck stiffness from falling asleep in awkward positions (namely the couch), and similar to the viewing public, the players are also increasingly being placed under the injury cloud.

Now, some injuries can’t be attributed to overplaying or over training like when the physio for the England team Gary Lewin jumped on a water bottle in celebration and dislocated his ankle… ouch! Or if you’re Luis Suarez’s opponent, and were a victim to a bite attack.

Jokes aside, as the world cup moves into the knockout rounds, why does the risk of injury increase?  Was it that specific movement or tackle that caused their particular injury? The answer isn’t that straight forward, but it has something to do with a sustained period of training and playing that finally caused the body to say, “I’ve had enough!” (i.e. the straw that broke the camel’s back).

Without going into too much detail, a few things happen to the body when you are exercising. Repetitive and sustained activity causes the body’s muscles, tendons and joints to adapt by increasing their flexibility. However, if this is maintained, the body begins to fatigue and the muscles and tendons lose efficiency and strength, which puts them at risk of injury.

With this being the case, it it’s important to be aware that rest and reduced activity is needed for your body to recharge. The players at the World Cup are carefully monitored, relative to their level of training and game time, to make sure they are steering clear of the dreaded “red zone” (which indicates a high risk of injury).

It’s important that while we watch the rest of the World Cup, we consider our body and our training/game load. Here are some easy principles to think about:

  • Have a varied, holistic program and keep it varied: don’t just do strength training but also incorporate endurance, speed, flexibility, co-ordination as well as changing the environment (try the park instead of the gym)
  • Spend time warming up and cooling down
  • Build in active rest days and recovery sessions
  • Important to self-monitor: be mindful of physical performance (5km running time) and how you are feeling (increased fatigue, heavier legs, exercise is harder than usual)
  • It’s important to remember to gradually increase your training/game intensity and load
  • Don’t forget the nutrition and hydration!
  • And most importantly…. Keep check of your mental health! Your thoughts feeling and beliefs can have a major impact on physical performance

So if you are interested in discussing your training schedule or even develop or improve your current management plan, come down and see us at Life Ready Physio and we’ll work together to keep you out of the dreaded “red zone”.

Note: Jon Warne is a physiotherapist at our CBD clinic. As well as having completed his Masters of Manual Therapy, Jon uses a patient centred approach to physiotherapy, using a range of evidence based approaches to help his patients achieve their goals.