Saints staff have innovative research study published

By SFC Media time Fri 22 Feb Club
Photo by James Bridle | Laura Bowen

Southampton's Sports Science and Sports Medicine team have celebrated seeing a leading research paper on player injuries published in the renowned British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The comprehensive three-year study used GPS devices to track player workloads and determine the optimum amount of training for a Premier League footballer without increasing their risk of injury.

The unique and innovative research, which was led by First Team Data Scientist Laura Bowen and which has been made open to the public, found that certain spikes in acute:chronic workload ratio were associated with an injury rate that was five-to-seven times greater.

Bowen explained: "Our job as sports scientists and the job of coaches is to make sure the players are as fit as they possibly can be. The aim of this research was to find out how much we can train them, without pushing them so far that they get injured.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Oriol Romeu during a Southampton FC training session at the Staplewood Campus on August 27, 2018 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
GPS vests were used to gather data on the players' workloads

"Putting it really simply, we found that if they trained over double the amount of the previous few weeks it was five-to-seven times more likely they would get injured.

"If they don't train enough they are at risk of injury, because training makes them more robust to the work we put into them. But, if they do too much they become over-trained and increase, for instance, their chance of pulling a muscle.

"So we work on a U-shape and our research finds the optimum amount of work they can do in order to get the best out of them, both from a performance and an injury-prevention perspective."

Bowen conducted the research in conjunction with colleagues at Southampton, as well as the University of Birmingham, with the project also forming part of her PhD.

The players' workloads were tracked using global positioning system devices in training, while video analysis was used to monitor their in-game work, from the 2014/15 season through to the end of the 2016/17 campaign.

it makes me feel like we're making a difference.

laura bowen
first team data analyst

The paper's publication in the internationally-renowned British Journal of Sports Medicine was a source of pride for Bowen, as was the decision for the findings to be shared with others.

"It's at the forefront of sports science and medicine research," she said. "We're one of the only elite sports environments, and definitely Premier League football clubs, to have released research that is pretty open to how much work we do and the injuries that we get, so we're hoping we're encouraging other clubs to open their doors to things like this too and that we can keep growing the knowledge in the field in the future.

"It makes me feel like we're doing something worthwhile as a team and that we're making a difference. It's nice to make a difference on and off the field in one go and put it out there for other people as well."

To read the full paper, click here.

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