August 2019 – Load Management for Injury Prevention

Motion Health Exercise Physiology Melbourne

By Catherine Macrae

Whether you are training for a marathon, a hiking holiday, a week at the ski slopes, or even just maintaining the ability to cope with tasks of daily living, managing load is relevant for everyone. Research highlights the need for education on modification of load in addition to strengthening the kinetic chain.

So how do we define load? It’s basically the total volume, type and intensity of activity that an individual undertakes in both training and competition. Measuring and monitoring load is important to the individual and Physiotherapist because we can use the information to our advantage in preventing any Non-contact soft tissue or bony injuries in the future. Your base ‘condition’ or ‘capacity’ will dictate how much load your body may be able to tolerate. If the loads that you apply to your bodies are greater than the tissues capacity to cope, then a reactive response can lead to inflammation, sensitivity and pain.

Courtesy of ‘The Running Physio’- Tom Goom.

The AIS have produced a paper based on best practice guidelines titled ‘Can we think about training loads differently’ – click here to read the paper.

They have set out five key principles of load management to assist in Injury Prevention

1. Establish moderate training loads and ensure these are maintained
Basically, tissues LOVE consistency! If you can apply a consistent level of loading over a period of time, the tissues begin to adapt and when sudden spikes in load do occur, they will be much more likely to cope.

2. Be aware that injuries can be latent following increased training loads
This is why managing and particularly monitoring load is so important. Sudden increases should be avoided, with a general rule of 10% load increases only!

3. Minimise large week to week fluctuations
Consistency is key! Common pitfalls occur when returning from training/loading breaks like holidays or injuries, and individuals resume training at the previous level of load. Illustrated nicely with Dye’s ‘Envelope of Function’ (Courtesy of Tom Goom ‘The Running Physio’)

4. Establish a floor ceiling of safety
Any training program should set out a minimal level of weekly loading, and a maximum level of loading. Ensuring training stays in the ‘Safety sweet spot’

5. Ensure training loads are appropriate for your current situation.
Loads should represent the current tissue capacity. Monitoring how someone is responding to load (i.e Fatigue, sleep, tissue response etc) assists us in graduating a training program appropriately.

The take home message from this, is GET MOVING! Tissues Love and adapt to regular loading. If you have a training aim or competition goal in the future, use the assistance of a Health Professional like a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist, to establish a base training program and assist in monitoring the graduation of your loading to allow you to reach those targets safely, without injury!