The pre-season can be a challenging time for sports people and is often associated with high intensity and challenging training sessions to reach peak fitness for the upcoming season. Aussie Rules Football requires a high degree of strength, mobility, aerobic fitness and power. All of these aspects need to be addressed to achieve the optimal physical performance. Pre-season is often a combination of the above training regimes to achieve this. For me, it involves running, weight training, core stability training and combinations of these, performed 3-4 times per week. Unfortunately, high intensity and frequent training loads can place increased stress on the body and can lead to injury.
Common injuries during the off-season tend to be from overuse, and typically occur in the lower limb. While impact injuries, acute sprains and strains do occur, these are more common during the season proper.
- Tendinopathy is an overuse injury that commonly affects the Achilles tendon, plantar fascia and patella tendon in footballers. Due to a range of factors the tendon is pushed to its limits and eventually becomes symptomatic – potentially causing pain and affecting the ability to train at full capacity. It is crucial to manage such injuries as quickly as possible to appropriately prevent ongoing pain and dysfunction.
- Other common overuse injuries include anterior knee pain and shin splints. Inappropriate footwear/training surfaces, poor lower limb biomechanics and over-training all have the potential to cause these type of injuries.
Current Preseason Training Program + Injury Prevention
My current program consists of:
- Running – long and short distance, stop-start, agility, sprinting and fartlek work.
- Weight training – major muscle groups of upper and lower limb using weights, body weight, resistance bands and combinations of these.
- Core stability training and mobility – via pilates or group sessions between drills.
- Skill work using the football – often involving a variety of the above exercises.
This is divided amongst three to four sessions per week.
Training load management is another important aspect for reducing the risk of injury. While other factors may be at play and need to be addressed, it is necessary to be in tune with what your body and what it is telling you.
A gradual increase in training load and incorporating a variety of training activities can help prevent overuse injuries. Appropriate recovery within and between sessions is also a good way to reduce the impact of over-training; we currently have a two day break between sessions to ensure this.
Occasionally injuries are sustained and require specific assessment and rehabilitation. This is achieved by careful assessment and treatment by our physiotherapists who work alongside your coaching staff to get players back on the track as quickly and safely as possible. With preseason training so important to performance during the regular season, the sooner an injury is assessed and addressed, the less time (if any) off preseason is required.