Aim: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between physical workload and injury risk in elite youth football players.
Methods: The workload data and injury incidence of 32 players were monitored throughout 2 seasons. Multiple regression was used to compare cumulative (1, 2, 3 and 4-weekly) loads and acute:chronic (A:C) workload ratios (acute workload divided by chronic workload) between injured and non-injured players for specific GPS and accelerometer-derived variables:total distance (TD), high-speed distance (HSD), accelerations (ACC) and total load. Workloads were classified into discrete ranges by z-scores and the relative risk was determined.
Results: A very high number of ACC (≥9254) over 3 weeks was associated with the highest significant overall (relative risk (RR)=3.84) and non-contact injury risk (RR=5.11). Non-contact injury risk was significantly increased when a high acute HSD was combined with low chronic HSD (RR=2.55), but not with high chronic HSD (RR=0.47). Contact injury risk was greatest when A:C TD and ACC ratios were very high (1.76 and 1.77, respectively) (RR=4.98).
Conclusions: In general, higher accumulated and acute workloads were associated with a greater injury risk. However, progressive increases in chronic workload may develop the players' physical tolerance to higher acute loads and resilience to injury risk.
Keywords: Adolescent; Football; Global positioning system; Injury; Training load.
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