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New study uses GPS technology to predict football injuries

With the Premier League opener just under a week away, and with the likes of Liverpool’s James Milner, Everton’s Muhamed Besic and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere likely to miss their first games, injuries have been something of a talking point. But what if there was a way to predict and stop a player from getting injured before it even happened? Impossible? Well, researchers from the University of Birmingham and Southampton Football Club have been trying to achieve just that.

They’ve been busy analysing the performance of youth players and observing the links between their training and injury. Their findings have recently been published and hint that footballers’ injuries could indeed be predicted by assessing their workloads during training and competitive matches.

This study is the first to monitor injury risk using GPS technology to track a player’s speed and acceleration. The study (published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine) provides a set of initial guidelines to help reduce injuries in elite youth football. 

The GPS equipment was worn during training for a three-week period and used to gather a range of player performance data. These included, total distance covered, distance covered at high speed, total load/forces experienced and the amount of short bursts of speed. This information was then analysed in relation to ‘recordable injuries’ which would cause a player to miss games.

They discovered that the greatest injury risk occurred when players accumulated a very high number of short bursts of speed during training sessions.

Dr François-Xavier Li, from the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences said “To increase the chances of success, coaches give players training loads which push the boundaries of what footballers can achieve without exceeding what their bodies can tolerate.”

“An appropriate balance is required between training, competition and recovery to hit peak performance, whilst avoiding injury. However, this balance is not always adequately maintained, highlighted by the higher injury rate in football than many other team sports.”

This new study goes further than previous research to highlight the importance of monitoring normal training schedules and exceptional ‘spikes’, for example during fixture congested periods or tournaments.

Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine