Performance success or failure is influenced by weeks lost to injury and illness in elite Australian track and field athletes: A 5-year prospective study

J Sci Med Sport. 2016 Oct;19(10):778-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2015.12.515. Epub 2016 Jan 7.


Objectives: To investigate the impact of training modification on achieving performance goals. Previous research demonstrates an inverse relationship between injury burden and success in team sports. It is unknown whether this relationship exists within individual sport such as athletics.

Design: A prospective, cohort study (n=33 International Track and Field Athletes; 76 athlete seasons) across five international competition seasons.

Methods: Athlete training status was recorded weekly over a 5-year period. Over the 6-month preparation season, relationships between training weeks completed, the number of injury/illness events and the success or failure of a performance goal at major championships was investigated. Two-by-two table were constructed and attributable risks in the exposed (AFE) calculated. A mixed-model, logistic regression was used to determine the relationship between failure and burden per injury/illness. Receiver Operator Curve (ROC) analysis was performed to ascertain the optimal threshold of training week completion to maximise the chance of success.

Results: Likelihood of achieving a performance goal increased by 7-times in those that completed >80% of planned training weeks (AUC, 0.72; 95%CI 0.64-0.81). Training availability accounted for 86% of successful seasons (AFE=0.86, 95%CI, 0.46 to 0.96). The majority of new injuries occurred within the first month of the preparation season (30%) and most illnesses occurred within 2-months of the event (50%). For every modified training week the chance of success significantly reduced (OR=0.74, 95%CI 0.58 to 0.94).

Conclusions: Injuries and illnesses, and their influence on training availability, during preparation are major determinants of an athlete's chance of performance goal success or failure at the international level.

Keywords: Athletics; Epidemiology; Performance analysis; Sporting injury; Success.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Logistic Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Return to Sport / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / injuries
  • Time Factors
  • Track and Field / injuries*