The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a review of the evidence for Strength Training as a strategy to reduce injuries in Athletes- and the results are impressive! For those that tend to just read the first few lines of an article, take this away. If you are an athlete, or you coach athletes, strength training should be a priority in your programming if you want to reduce injury risk. For the rest of you, please read on.

This article was by Lauresen, Andersen and Andersen (2018). Below is a summary:

The Interventions

  • 6 studies were included, totaling 7738 participants aged between 12-40 y.o.
  • The average intervention duration was 21.39 weeks.
  • Average volume of training was 80 reps per week.
  • Average intensity was 8.39 RM (these means the maximum number of repetitions that can be performed for a given exercise).

The Outcomes

  • Strength Training reduced sports injuries by 66% with a 95% confidence interval of 52% (combined results from 4 of the 6 studies).
  • A 10% increase in strength training volume resulted in reduced injury risk of 4%.
  • No injuries occurred as a result of the strength training throughout the interventions.
  • Strength training was both safe and effective for adolescents as well as adult athletes.

Why? The Mechanisms

The authors can only speculate as to why strength training helped protect athletes from injury, but their proposed mechanisms to explain its effectiveness are:

  • Preconditioning- effectively toughening up the muscles/tendons so they can deal with greater loads.
  • Variation of loading across the body so that parts of the body that are not stressed by the sport take more of the load in the gym.
  • Improved coordination and technique in the gym crossing over to movements in sports.

The Recommendations

The authors concluded with the following recommendations for strength training, and I advise that if you choose to trust an Exercise Professional to help you or your athletes commence a strength training program that they can demonstrate an understanding and adherence to these principles.

  • Commence with a familiarisation period so that the athletes can develop the confidence and capability to perform the exercises correctly.
  • Ensure the athlete is supervised in the gym so that exercises can be completed well and loads are monitored accurately.
  • Loads are individualised to the athletes capability and are altered appropriately over a training cycle.
  • Exercises are varied across the year of training.

I would add in that it is also important that the strength training program is correctly synchronised with the training and competition schedules, so the Exercise Professional must be in regular communication with the athlete’s coach. For example, during an athletes off-season they can focus on improving function and technique; during pre-season switch to muscle building; and within season aim to build/maintain strength and power. The Exercise Physiologists at iNform have extensive experience managing the strength training programs of athletes across many sports. If you would like to speak to one of our EPs about the services we offer athletes, please contact us!

About the Author

Lauersen, J. B., Andersen, T. E., & Andersen, L. B. (2018). Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, bjsports-2018.