Interview with Tim Gabbett about physical demands, injury prevention, and skill acquisition.
[atk] Today, for many people the Internet seems the only source of information. You have published over 200 peer-reviewed articles. What is the difference between publishing peer-reviewed articles and publishing
[tg] Yes, there is a lot of information on the Internet and I would imagine if you are just starting out in an area, it can be a little overwhelming. It can also be difficult for people to tell the difference between fact and fiction! Publishing in scientific journals requires the work to be scrutinized by expert reviewers. Quite often, scientific papers may take years from the initial conceptualization to finally being published – I am not sure that the same level of scrutiny applies to blogs and tweets. People are going to take in information in a lot of different ways, but personally, I spend a lot more time reading the original scientific paper than I do reading tweets and blogs.
[atk] What is the most common myth about workload and injury?
[tg] The most common myth is that workloads, particularly high workloads cause injuries. What we are starting to realize from a wide range of sports is that high workloads can protect athletes against injuries – as long as those high workloads are achieved safely. Progressing workloads gradually allows
coaches to improve the robustness and resilience of athletes while also
keeping injury risk low.
[atk] Most of the strength & conditioning coaches in game-sports use traditional conditioning activities to achieve improvements in physical fitness. Is there evidence for a transfer to the specific physical demands of games?
What is the value of game-based training and skill-improvement?
[tg] The reality is that good teams will use a combination of both traditional and game-based training to get the most out of players. Traditional
conditioning activities give athletes the ‚physical qualities‘ to compete –
game-based training ‚teaches‘ them how to compete. My experience is that it
is very difficult to train the repeated high-intensity effort demands using
game-based training, but ‚games‘ are really good for promoting
decision-making and skills under pressure and fatigue.
[atk] The self-conception of many strength & conditioning coaches is to make athletes better in the weightroom. Do you have any evidence that strength training in the weightroom leads to less injury in a specific sport environment?
[tg] Strength training is really important for injury prevention. There is some good evidence to say that eccentric strength can reduce the risk of
hamstring injuries. We have also done some work to show that (1) strength
can reduce the risk of contact injuries and (2) well-developed strength can
help athletes tolerate spikes in workload with lower injury risk. The
important thing to keep in mind is that developing strength in the gym is
not the end point – we aren’t developing athletes to look good in the
mirror! Ultimately, we want the strength that is developed in the gym to
transfer to better performance outcomes (e.g. speed, agility, reduced injury
[atk] The importance of individualization has been pointed out by many experienced coaches. What are your basic recommendations to implement an individual workload management?
[tg] No coach – be it a sports coach/manager, strength coach or on-field fitness coach can develop individual programs for athletes unless they understand the (1) demands of the sport and (2) the physical and technical/tactical qualities required to play the sport. In examining the demands of the sport, it is really important to understand the most demanding passages of play – the worst case scenario, because typically goals scored and conceded occur in close proximity to these events. Testing different physical qualities (e.g. speed, strength, aerobic fitness) allows the coach to identify individual strengths and weaknesses. If a player performs really well on an aerobic test, but poorly on speed or strength, then they obviously don’t need more aerobic training – their program is geared towards the development
of strength and power. Equally, if a player is fast, but can only produce one effort (i.e. they have no repeated-sprint ability), then individualizing their program to improve this deficiency is key. By providing individual attention and programming to athletes, it promotes the development of a better „all-round“ athlete, making them more robust, and less likely to be limited by any single physical quality.
[atk] Thank you very much!