Pre-season training is a crucial period for athletes and teams to prepare themselves both physically and mentally for the upcoming sporting season. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of competition, it’s also important to remember that injuries can derail even the most promising seasons — which is why pre-season training is so important for injury prevention.
By focusing on building strength, flexibility, and endurance before the season starts, athletes can reduce their risk of getting hurt on the field or court. In this article, we’ll explore the many benefits of standard and AFL pre-season training and provide tips on how to make the most of this critical time. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a weekend warrior, understanding the importance of pre-season training can help you stay healthy and perform at your best throughout the year.
What Is Pre-Season Training?
Pre-season training is considered one of the most crucial phases during a sports season due to its role in preparing the athlete for the physical demands of the sport, establishing a strong fitness foundation, and allowing time to target technique and improve skill acquisition. Regardless of the sport played ultimately, pre-season helps to facilitate optimum performance levels whilst also reducing injury rates.
Depending on the type of sport and level of the athlete, pre-season may start anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months before the competition. The amount of AFL pre-season training required is proportionate to the time spent not training or training at a reduced load over the off-season.
What Does Pre-Season Training Involve?
- Progressive strength training
- Flexibility training
- Cardiovascular fitness training
- Sports-specific skills and drills
- Speed and agility training
Training Load Management:
When a sporting season ends, it’s common for the majority of athletes to take some time off to rest and recover. Although this rest is warranted both physically and mentally it consequently results in a decrease in strength, cardiovascular fitness levels and an overall level of deconditioning.
The amount of deconditioning an athlete experiences correlates to the relative decrease in training load. Hence it is important to re-introduce training progressively as resuming your normal in-season training load without allowing the body sufficient time to adapt to higher loads significantly increases susceptibility to injury.
As much as most of us feel ready to jump hard and fast back into training after a holiday or period of rest and unloading, it is important to recognise that when the training load is accelerated too rapidly the body does not have time to adapt to the training stress which again increases the risk of injury.
Injury occurs when the physical demands are greater than the time allowed for the body to recover
It is also important to note that training load is not just the sessions spent training with your team or in individual training environments. Load includes those activities we may engage in outside of sport such as walking, gym sessions or other forms of physical activity.
A consistent training load helps to enhance performance whereas a load that involves sudden spikes or drops in training may result in injury or decreased capacity to perform.
The key is to train ‘smarter not harder’
Benefits Of Pre-Season For The Injured Athlete:
For athletes who may have encountered an interrupted competition season during 2022 due to injury, pre-season serves as a vital period to focus on rehabbing and re-conditioning injured body parts to maximise their capacity to tolerate sports-specific loads and reduce re-injury.
Re-loading injured tissues and re-introducing stress on the musculoskeletal system must be performed cautiously. Research tells us that athletes who return to training with a planned and controlled approach are better equipped to meet sporting demands, have improved readiness to return to sport and are less likely to suffer further injury.
Other benefits of pre-season training includes:
- AFL Pre-season training allows injured athletes to focus on rehabbing and re-conditioning injured body parts
- It maximises the capacity of injured body parts to tolerate sports-specific loads and reduces the risk of re-injury
- A planned and controlled approach to pre-season training helps athletes meet sporting demands more effectively
- Pre-season training improves readiness to return to sport
- Injured athletes who undergo pre-season training are less likely to suffer further injury
- Pre-season training helps athletes to gradually re-load injured tissues and re-introduce stress on the musculoskeletal system in a safe and controlled manner
- Pre-season training can also improve overall fitness, strength, and flexibility, which can further reduce the risk of injury during the competitive season
- Pre-season training provides an opportunity for injured athletes to focus on mental preparation, such as goal setting and visualisation techniques, which can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
How Can Our Physios Help During Pre-Season?
As Physios, we are trained to identify and treat impairments. Pre-screening allows us to assess athletes through a range of tests to determine any predisposing factors that may increase the risk of injury or impact performance.
Pre-screening allows safe participation back to sport with many other benefits such as providing education on appropriate training load, injury prevention strategies and individualised programs to maximise performance.
If you would like to learn a little more about what is involved in pre-screening click on the link.
Additionally, another great tool that can be implemented during pre-season training is a knee injury prevention program. Whilst these programs are specifically designed to help reduce knee injuries they incorporate general strengthening, flexibility and plyometric exercises which all aid in improving sports performance.
Introducing these programs early in the year also allows athletes to familiarise themselves with and learn the program so that they can seamlessly be incorporated into warmups before training and game days.
ACL injuries have the fastest annual growth rate of all knee injuries in Australia (Maniar et al., 2022). However, Literature shows that by incorporating an injury prevention program, ACL injury rates can be decreased by 53% (Huang et al., 2020).
Some sports-specific ACL prevention programs include:
Professional Pre-Season Training Physiotherapy
If you’re an athlete who has suffered from an injury and want to make the most of your pre-season training, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team of expert physiotherapists at Coast Sport. Our experienced professionals can provide you with tailored advice and support to help you rehabilitate safely and effectively, ensuring you’re ready to perform at your best when the season begins. Schedule a pre-season consultation with a physiotherapist at Coast Sport today and get on the path to a healthier, stronger, and more confident you.