Recovery time and injury - younger players

It's not earth shattering news. But I always find the evidence (and the science) interesting reading.


Eastie Boi - any comments?



Link to article:




Protecting the stars of tomorrow
Mon, 28 Apr 2014 10:08:00 +1000

With AFL training regimes reaching ever-more sophisticated heights, an increased risk of muscle damage and impaired game performance for younger AFL players has been identified by Deakin sports scientist Shannon Hunkin.


Ms Hunkin identified this issue during her recent honours project, which showed that younger AFL players are more vulnerable to muscle damage, resulting from inadequate recovery time after intense training and their weekly game.


She urges coaches to carefully monitor the training regimes of younger AFL players, to avoid these negative consequences and help the players achieve a full elite career.


For the project, Ms Hunkin monitored 29 AFL players, aged between 18 and 30, during the 2012 season. She measured levels of the protein creatine kinase to identify muscle damage and used coach reports and performance ranking scores to determine the effect of this damage on match performance.


Ms Hunkin undertook her research within Deakin‘s Centre for Exercise and Sport Science, under the supervision of Associate Prof Paul Gastin. The centre focusses on research in areas such as coach effectiveness; measurement, analysis and prediction in sport; and sport technology.


Her research found that average levels of the protein during the football season were nearly five times higher than before pre-season training began. The footballers with higher levels of the protein, in any given week, demonstrated reduced match performance.


“During the season, players undertake a number of training sessions each week, but we have found that - for the best performance in competition - they need to be allowed to fully recover from these training sessions,” Ms Hunkin said.


She added that if levels remain high for several weeks, players are at greater risk of residual muscle damage.


Her research showed that older, more experienced footballers are less vulnerable when exhibiting muscle damage, perhaps due to “better tactical knowledge and an enhanced ability to position themselves on the field, or because their bodies have adapted to the training regime.”


Junior players - in the first two to three seasons at elite level - appear to be most at risk.


Ms Hunkin hopes that clubs will use her research to improve individual monitoring of younger players “to make sure they are developing properly and reduce the chances of injury or under-performance.”


“Improved individual monitoring would help to maximise each younger player‘s game performance and, hopefully, contribute to a full-term career at elite level,” she said. “Most players only stay at the elite level for three to six years.”


Ms Hunkin said that while creatine kinase is one marker, coaches could use other indicators, such as inhibited flexibility or soreness, to identify muscle damage.


“AFL training is now more intense than it was even five to ten years ago,” she said. “In the past, there was a focus on long distance running, for instance. Now there is more emphasis on intense sprinting, altitude and heat training. During pre-season, players may go to Cairns for heat training, or Colorado for altitude training, and all of this puts strain on the athlete‘s body.”


“It is a matter of finding the right balance. If less experienced players are monitored more carefully, trainers may see early warning signs and then they can ease back a bit.”


Link to article:


I think the paragraph where she mentions that the reduced muscle damage may be a result of better tactical knowledge vs any physiological differences is the key one.


Because AFL is so unpredictable you have to take these studies with a grain of salt.


Results would be far more accurate if based on triathletes, sprinters etc because their sports have far less variables.


With that said it is no secret that most players will take a few years to build up the required work tolerance to consistently compete at the elite level in AFL. The gap/time has been reduced due to better junior programs eg TAC cup, AIS but how often do younger players burn out in the back half of the year vs 5-7 year players?


On the flip side you always hear of the oldest players being on reduced work loads because their recovery time is longer from games.


So really all in all the article/study hasn't really proven anything, or suggested anything new or revolutionary lol


I'd also suggest that AFL clubs do closely monitor workload and recovery of all their players irrespective of age. I know Collingwood have all sorts of measures set up to test their players physical wellbeing from reaction time tests to skin folds, grip tests, blood tests etc



Also 29 players over 1 season is a very small sample size of a short period of time (in science experiment terms anyway)

Collingwood are doing blood tests? Sounds like Sports Science to me… I hope Knackers (Gillan) is on top of putting a stop to that.

I’d be surprised if any club wasn’t doing bloodwork on their players at least twice a year