As the off-season nears a close, many Australian Rules Football clubs across
the country will commence their pre-season. One reason pre-season exists is
to develop the physical qualities required to complete in-season matches.
Additionally, increased opportunity to participate in a greater proportion of
training allows the body to prepare for the spike in load once the first trial
games are underway.
Essentially, players need to “load to withstand load”, and this is a great way of
understanding a major element behind performing pre-season. Smart coaching
staff will consider this, all the while monitoring load in order to avoid the upper
threshold to overloading and increasing injury risk. Research from 2017 found
that AFL players who completed less than 50% of pre-season training were 2x
more likely to sustain in-season injury than those who completed greater than
85% of the pre-season. A strong relationship occurred between training loads
completed during the pre-season period and in-season weekly loads, as well
injury during the season in elite AFL players.
Those that completed more in pre-season were able to complete a greater
proportion of main training sessions as well matches than either a player
completing moderate or low levels of pre-season. Getting the load in during
the pre-season enables more in-season training which was favourable for
match availability. For those that completed a greater amount of pre-season
training, they also spent less time in rehab during the season. Coaches must
look to incorporate strategies which promote strong participation rates and
where applicable, find ways to include injured players within the larger playing
group, therefore promoting greater squad numbers for the upcoming season.
This comes into line with similar evidence in cricket and rugby league,
suggesting that building fitness capacity and a chronic load foundation aids in-
season injury prevention.
Here are several tips for Australian Rules Football coaches and strength and
conditioning staff:
o Injury rates are highest during the pre-competition phase, where teams
will usually play trial games and even higher for a player with low loads
in pre-season
o The highest injury risk period for players is in the trial games as well it
was found between games 12-17 in the season
o Potential special consideration should be given to those with a low pre-
season accumulated volume
o High training loads during the pre-season timeframes allowed players to
develop adequate physical qualities which geared them up for increased
training and competition in-season
Players should aim to complete as much of the planned pre-season training
program as possible in order to develop the resilience to tolerate in-season
training and matches. However, for athletes who are currently injured and in
pre-season, do not forget the importance of your own rehabilitation programs.
It becomes a balancing act between completing the rehab program and
participating in training with the rest of the team.
START Training is currently based at Wilston-Grange AFL Club, Stafford. If you’d
like more information or guidance about what to do in your AFL off-season,
START Training have experienced Exercise Physiologists who specialise in sport
specific periodisation and programming. START Training have the expertise to
maximise your on-field performance in both individual and team sports
through tailored exercise programs.
Contact the clinic on 0411 299 110 or via
email [email protected] to find out more!
By Loxlee Blacket – Exercise Physiologist
-Relationship Between Preseason Training Load and In-Season Availability
in Elite Australian Football Players (Murray et al., 2017)
– Preseason Workload Volume and High-Risk Periods for Noncontact
Injury Across Multiple Australian Football League Seasons (Colby et al.,

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