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Season Review – Injuries

Upon completion of my first season as a coach I have sat back and started to evaluate which goals I achieved and which ones I need to work on next year to be successful. One area that I really paid attention to during the off season and also during our competitive season was injuries. As most people know having a high injury toll can cost you the chance of winning a premiership.

The positive thing about all of our injuries this season was that they were all contact injuries. We didn’t have any hamstring tears, calf tears, or any type of overuse injury. If one of the players got injured it was due to a collision which you can accept, it is the nature of our sport as rugby league players. The injuries I can’t accept are the ones where players are tearing a muscle at training with no one around. This just means they are overtrained or unconditioned. Fortunately we didn’t have any of these injuries.

Another good sign of the training being effective was that we had two players coming off major surgery in the off season and they both played out the season without reinjuring or any flare ups of these injuries. Considering one was a knee reco and the other a shoulder reco, I think we done quite well to not only get them back on the field but be able to stay there.

The total games missed due to injury throughout the year was only 35. This included 3 long term injuries; a broken wrist, torn PCL, and an ACL season ending injury. In all, 27 games were missed from these 3 incidents, so as you can see to only have another 8 smaller injuries is a good effort.

Players who got on board with THP and followed our nutritional advice suffered very few injuries. Out of the 8 players, they only missed 5 games all season. Of the 5 games missed, 4 of these were in the final week of the competition when we had to play 3 games in a week due to a catch up. Again, 1 missed game all season until the final week is really good going.

What did we do?

In the off season I focused on training for structural balance in the gym. This meant we spent a lot of time training the hamstrings, low back, VMO, and rotator cuff. Although I was unable to individually screen and program all players these were obvious weaknesses as many players were unable to squat or deadlift with proper technique on day 1.

I also got some of the players screened by Gemma which helped out a lot. This was especially true for the boys coming off major injuries from the season prior. Compliance of their corrective based programs was not as great as it should have been but they still got results. Just makes me wonder how much they could of improved if they followed it to the letter.

I spent a fair bit of time with the players coming off surgery doing soft tissue and activation work as well. The players seemed to feel this helped them a lot.

The on field sessions throughout the off season consisted of skills and defensive work. We didn’t do any single sessions of pure conditioning. Generally the skill work takes care of the conditioning in rugby league but I also felt that with the squad we had we really needed to start with the skill based stuff ASAP. I got the players conditioning up through modifying the rest between skill drills, doing repeat efforts in defence, and playing modified games. I really think this helped the players stay fresh and also minimized any overuse injuries.

During the season I dropped the weight sessions to just 2 per week. In season this is plenty. The goal of in season training is to maintain lean muscle mass, as a loss of muscle mass is a predictor of an injury to come. We also tried to maintain strength but the focus was never to build strength, that is what the off season is for. The volume was very low at times but intensity remained high. The main thing in season is that the players are able to recover and feel fresh come game day. Too many strength coaches forget this. I think being fresh out of the game really helped me in this area, I knew how the boys were feeling.

What would I do differently?

There isn’t too much that I would do differently in regards to injury prevention. If anything I may add in a mental toughness type session here and there but in saying that these are the sessions that often burn players out and potentially lead to injuries. If I did do one of these sessions it would be followed by a massive drop in volume the following weeks.

What are the benefits of a lowered injury toll?

Some people may think “who cares if you lowered your injury rate, what does it matter?”

Well there are many benefits to this, some are as follows:

  1. The club saves money on medical bills. Often this can blow a clubs budget out of the water

  2. The players are able to make more money. We get paid match payments at our level so if you don’t play, you don’t get paid. Also an injury tends to mean that the player may miss work the following week so again this means they would miss out on even more income.

  3. You can be competitive. Keeping your strongest team on the field always serves you well but having a healthy squad also allows players to compete for positions.

From an injury perspective I am quite happy with our results although with more time, resources, and adherence from players to do more corrective/mobility based stuff in their own time, I’m sure we can get even better results next season.

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