Elite Insights Lessons from High Performance Sports Pros (1)CategoriesBlog

Unlock Your Potential: Mastering Strength & Conditioning for a Thriving Career in AFL Sports Science

In the fast-evolving world of the Australian Football League (AFL) and sports science, the demand for skilled strength and conditioning coaches is skyrocketing. Whether you’re an aspiring professional in footy or a seasoned high-performance staff member looking to sharpen your skills, the path to success in this niche is nuanced and competitive. This article, guided by insights from Jack McLean, a seasoned AFL strength & conditioning coach at Melbourne Football Club and a master of applied sport science, aims to be your comprehensive guide.

Leveraging practical knowledge and industry insights, this post will not only enhance your understanding of the essentials of strength and conditioning but also provide actionable strategies to elevate your career in sports science. If you’re passionate about AFL and eager to optimize athletic performance, this guide is tailored for you, encompassing everything from foundational fitness principles to advanced conditioning techniques.

2024 High-Performance Questionnaire results from some of Australia’s most experienced Strength & Conditioning Coaches in pro sport! 

How many years of Semi-Pro/Community sport did you complete before your first full-time contract in Pro sport? 

Years experience strength & conditioning

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What Academic Qualifications had you completed for your first full-time contract? 

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Key Takeaways

  • Strength & Conditioning: Essential practices and cutting-edge techniques to enhance athletic performance in AFL.
  • High Performance: Strategies to develop and implement effective high-performance programs that lead to successful outcomes.
  • Applied Sport Science: Insights into how sports science integrates with daily coaching to improve player welfare and performance.
  • Career Advancement: Tips on education, networking, and practical experience to build a successful career in sports science and strength & conditioning.

Understanding Strength & Conditioning

What is Strength & Conditioning?

Strength and conditioning (S&C) are critical components of athletic training, particularly in a demanding sport like AFL. This discipline focuses not just on improving physical strength but also on enhancing athletes’ overall endurance, speed, agility, and performance under pressure. Effective S&C programs are scientifically backed, tailored to meet the specific needs of athletes, and are crucial for both injury prevention and peak performance.

The Role of a Strength & Conditioning Coach

As a strength and conditioning coach, your role extends beyond the gym floor. It involves close collaboration with sports scientists, physiotherapists, and dietitians to provide a holistic training approach. This career demands an in-depth understanding of human physiology, exercise science, and sports psychology, all aimed at enhancing an athlete’s performance and longevity in sports.

Applied Sport Science in AFL

Integration with Daily Training

Applied sport science makes significant contributions to how training regimes are structured in AFL. It involves meticulous planning and execution of training sessions based on data-driven insights. This ensures that training intensity, volume, and recovery are perfectly balanced to optimize performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Technology and Innovation

In today’s digital age, the integration of technology in sports science is transformative. From wearable tech measuring heart rate and power output to software applications for strategy development and player management, technology is at the forefront of modern sports science. Embracing these innovations can set you apart in the field of strength and conditioning.

Career Advancement in Sports Science

Educational Pathways

Starting a career in sports science typically requires a degree in sports science, human movement, physiotherapy, or a related field. Additionally, certifications in strength and conditioning, like those from recognized bodies such as ASCA or NSCA, can be incredibly beneficial.

Gaining Practical Experience

Practical experience is crucial. Internships with sports teams, voluntary positions, and shadowing experienced coaches are excellent ways to gain real-world skills. Networking within the industry can also open up opportunities for mentorship and job placements.

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This event is ideal for strength & conditioning coaches and sports science students who are serious about their career growth and professional development. Mark your calendar and prepare to join a community of winners.

Conclusion

Embarking on a career in sports science and strength & conditioning within the AFL requires a blend of technical knowledge, practical experience, and a deep passion for sports. By understanding the fundamental aspects of strength and conditioning and utilizing the latest in sports science, aspiring coaches can significantly improve their prospects. Remember, continuous learning and adaptation to new techniques and technologies are your best strategies for success.

Keep pushing your limits, stay updated with the latest research, and never hesitate to seek guidance from experts like Jack McLean. Your journey to becoming a top-notch strength & conditioning coach in AFL is just beginning!

FAQs

What qualifications are necessary to become a strength and conditioning coach? To become a strength and conditioning coach, typically a degree in sports science or a related field is required, along with specific certifications like those from the ASCA or NSCA.

How important is technology in modern strength & conditioning programs? Technology plays a crucial role in modern S&C programs, offering precise data that helps tailor training sessions to individual athletes’ needs, thus optimizing performance and reducing injury risks.

Can you start a career in AFL strength & conditioning without a sports science degree? While a sports science degree is highly beneficial, several pathways, including certifications and practical experience, can also lead to a career in AFL strength & conditioning.

What are the best ways to gain practical experience in this field? Securing internships, volunteering with sports teams, and networking within the industry are effective ways to gain practical experience in strength & conditioning.

 

 

Elite Insights Lessons from High Performance Sports ProsCategoriesBlog

Mastering Year-Round AFL Conditioning: Strategies for Peak Performance

Introduction: The Competitive Edge

In the high-stakes world of the Australian Football League (AFL), conditioning isn’t just about staying fit; it’s about sculpting athletes capable of peak performance year-round. Leveraging periodization in training not only sharpens their competitive edge but also fortifies them against the risk of injuries, ensuring a trajectory that spans seasons.

The Science of Periodization Explained

Periodization breaks the monotony of traditional training by dividing the athletic year into distinct phases, each with a targeted focus on building up different facets of an athlete’s physical prowess. This strategic division allows for focused improvements in strength, endurance, and sport-specific skills, paving the way for athletes to hit their peak when it counts the most.

Laying the Foundation: The Preparatory Phase

During the off-season, the preparatory phase kicks into gear, emphasizing General Physical Preparedness (GPP) with a variety of training modalities. As the season inches closer, the shift towards Sport-Specific Preparations (SPP) ensures that every sprint, jump, and tackle translates directly to in-game performance, setting the stage for a successful season ahead.

Bridging to Peak Performance: Transition Phases

Transition phases are the linchpins that connect the preparatory work to the demands of the competitive season. Initial transition phases focus on ramping up strength and power, tailoring training volumes and intensities to prime athletes for the rigors ahead without tipping them into the red zone of fatigue.

Maintaining Excellence: The Competition Phase

Once the season begins, the competition phase takes precedence. Here, the goal shifts to maintaining the high-performance levels achieved in the off-season, balancing between sustaining peak physical condition and navigating the gauntlet of regular competition with strategic modifications to training intensity and volume.

Recovery and Reflection: Embracing the Second Transition

Post-season, the second transition phase offers a critical period for physical and mental recovery. It’s a time for athletes to recharge, reflect on the season’s performance, and identify areas for growth. Balancing recovery with maintaining a base level of fitness ensures athletes remain primed for the challenges of the upcoming season.

Youth Athlete Considerations: Building Future Champions

Youth athletes require a tailored approach that not only hones their skill set but also instills a robust physical foundation capable of weathering the demands of professional sport. Emphasizing strength, flexibility, and motor control, alongside injury prevention strategies, sets the stage for a long, successful career in AFL.

A Year-Round Commitment to Excellence

Conditioning for AFL is a marathon, not a sprint. Adopting a year-round, periodized approach to training ensures athletes can consistently perform at their best, match after match, season after season. It’s a comprehensive strategy that balances intensity, recovery, and skill development, proving that in the realm of professional sports, preparation is just as critical as execution.

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AFL fitness testingCategoriesBlog

Maximizing AFL Performance: A Guide to Fitness Testing and Tailored Training Programs

In the highly competitive realm of the Australian Football League (AFL), achieving peak physical fitness and performance isn’t just a goal—it’s a necessity. The journey from an aspiring player to a professional athlete is laden with rigorous training routines, comprehensive fitness testing, and an unyielding drive to excel. This blog post delves into the pivotal role of fitness testing in the AFL, the design of effective preseason training programs, and how individualized training regimens can transform the way players meet the sport’s demands.

Fitness Testing: The AFL Benchmark

The Importance of a Multifaceted Approach

Fitness testing in the AFL isn’t a mere formality; it’s a cornerstone of player development and team strategy. By assessing various aspects of physical fitness—such as endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, and flexibility—coaches can tailor training programs to address specific needs, enhance player performance, and minimize the risk of injuries.

Key Fitness Tests and Their Relevance

From the shuttle run (beep test) for endurance to the vertical jump test for power, each fitness test provides invaluable data that informs training decisions. The agility test, for instance, isn’t just about quick movements; it’s about simulating game situations where rapid direction changes can be the difference between winning and losing a contest.

Crafting an Effective AFL Preseason Training Program

Balancing Group and Individual Needs

A successful pre-season program is one that strikes a balance between group sessions that foster team synergy and individual sessions that focus on personal growth areas. Incorporating a mix of shuttle runs, boxing circuits, squats, lunges, and core strengthening exercises ensures players are well-prepared for the demands of the season.

The Science Behind Repeat Effort Running

Understanding the body’s energy systems—anaerobic, lactate, and aerobic—is crucial for designing training drills that improve in-game performance. Repeat effort running drills, which mimic the high-intensity bursts of activity followed by brief recovery periods seen in AFL matches, are particularly effective.

Tailoring Training to Meet Individual Goals

Setting Measurable Objectives

The foundation of any training program should be its alignment with the athlete’s goals. Whether it’s improving acceleration, enhancing the ability to change direction, or building endurance to maintain high performance throughout a match, clearly defined goals shape the training regimen’s direction.

Functional Training: Beyond Strength and Endurance

Training for AFL success transcends traditional strength and endurance workouts. It involves developing functional strength and movement patterns that translate directly to on-field performance. This includes exercises that enhance jumping ability, tackle strength, and the agility required for evading opponents.

Addressing Common Frustrations and Needs

Customization is Key

One of the primary frustrations among players—both amateur and professional—is the plateauing of fitness and strength gains despite diligent effort. The antidote? Customized training programs that consider the unique physiological and psychological needs of each athlete, ensuring continuous improvement and motivation.

Navigating the Path to Professionalism Without Direct Access to AFL Coaches

For many aspiring AFL players, direct access to AFL-qualified strength & conditioning coaches remains a significant barrier. Leveraging online resources, seeking mentorship from experienced players, and engaging with communities of practice can bridge this gap, providing valuable insights and guidance.

FAQ Section

  1. What is the importance of fitness testing in the AFL? Fitness testing is crucial in the AFL as it helps in assessing a player’s physical capabilities across various domains such as endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, and flexibility. This data aids coaches in designing tailored training programs to boost player performance and reduce injury risks.
  2. Which key fitness tests are used in the AFL, and why? Several fitness tests are pivotal, including the shuttle run (beep test) for endurance, vertical jump for power, and agility tests for simulating in-game situations. Each test offers specific insights that inform the creation of targeted training regimens.
  3. How does an AFL preseason training program differ from regular season training? Preseason training emphasizes a blend of group and individual sessions, focusing on building the physical foundation—endurance, strength, power, and agility—required for the season. It often includes high-intensity drills like shuttle runs, circuit training, and repeat effort runs to prepare players for game conditions.
  4. Why is repeat effort running important in AFL training? Repeat effort running drills are crucial because they replicate the game’s high-intensity activity bursts followed by short recovery periods. This type of training improves players’ anaerobic capacity, enabling them to sustain efforts and recover quickly during matches.
  5. How should AFL players set their training goals? Players should set measurable, specific goals aligned with their personal and professional aspirations. These objectives could range from improving acceleration and agility to enhancing endurance, with training programs tailored to these specific targets.
  6. What does functional training involve in the context of AFL? Functional training for AFL players focuses on exercises that develop strength, agility, and movements directly translatable to on-field performance. This includes drills that enhance jumping ability, tackle strength, and evasion skills.
  7. How can AFL players overcome plateaus in fitness and strength gains? Customized training programs that account for an athlete’s unique physiological and psychological needs are key to overcoming plateaus. Continuous assessment and adaptation of training routines ensure ongoing improvement and motivation.
  8. What options do aspiring AFL players have if they lack access to professional coaches? Aspiring players without direct access to AFL coaches can leverage online resources, seek mentorship from experienced athletes, and engage with communities of practice to gain insights and guidance on training and development.
  9. What role does injury prevention play in AFL training? Injury prevention is integral to AFL training, involving targeted exercises that strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance joint stability. Tailoring training to address specific vulnerabilities can significantly reduce the risk of common injuries.
  10. Can individualized training regimens make a difference for amateur AFL players? Yes, individualized training regimens can greatly benefit amateur players by addressing their specific needs, goals, and challenges. Personalized programs help in maximizing potential, improving performance, and ensuring that players continue to progress towards their professional aspirations.

Embarking on an AFL career is a challenging journey fraught with intense competition, rigorous training, and the constant pursuit of excellence. By embracing a holistic approach to fitness testing and training—one that is customized, evidence-based, and aligned with individual goals—players can maximize their potential, overcome common frustrations, and inch closer to their dream of becoming professional athletes.

 

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Strengthen Muscles, Load Patterns and Move through Planes (1)CategoriesBlog

Strengthen Muscles, Load Patterns and Move through Planes

In the high-intensity world of the Australian Football League (AFL), strength and conditioning stand as pivotal elements for success on the field. Beyond the basic requirements of stamina and agility, the intricate play of muscles, load patterns, and movement through various planes plays a crucial role in elevating an athlete’s performance while minimizing the risk of injury. This blog post delves into these foundational components of AFL strength and conditioning, offering insights into how players can fortify their physical prowess and achieve peak performance through strategic training.

Understanding Muscles in AFL

AFL is a sport that demands versatility and resilience, relying on a wide array of muscle groups for different facets of the game such as sprinting, jumping, tackling, and kicking. Central to an AFL athlete’s performance are the leg muscles—including quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves—responsible for explosive speed and powerful jumps. Similarly, core strength, encompassing the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, and hips, is essential for stability, balance, and the generation of force during gameplay.

However, muscle strength in AFL goes beyond the mere ability to perform. It’s also about injury prevention. A well-conditioned athlete is less likely to succumb to the common injuries plaguing the sport, such as hamstring strains or ACL tears. Therefore, understanding the specific needs of these muscle groups and tailoring strength training accordingly is vital for longevity in the sport.

The Science of Load Patterns

At the core of any strength and conditioning program is the concept of load patterns. This refers to the different ways in which muscles are challenged during training—be it through lifting weights, resistance training, or bodyweight exercises. In AFL, varying these load patterns is critical not just for muscle growth, but for enhancing muscle resilience and adaptability to the unpredictable demands of the game.

Load patterns can be categorized broadly into isotonic (movement of the muscle under load), isometric (muscle under load without movement), and plyometric (explosive movements) exercises. Each has its place in an AFL athlete’s regimen. Isotonic exercises, for example, build muscle mass and strength through typical lifting motions. Isometric exercises enhance muscle endurance and stability, critical for maintaining tackles or holding positions. Plyometric training, on the other hand, develops explosive power, a requisite for sudden sprints or leaps.

Understanding and implementing these various load patterns in training ensures a comprehensive development of muscle strength and function, preparing athletes not just for the physical demands of AFL, but for the rigors of competition at the highest levels.

 

Movement Through Planes for AFL Athletes

To fully harness their physical capabilities, AFL players must train in three-dimensional space, moving through the sagittal (divides the body into left and right), frontal (divides the body into front and back), and transverse (divides the body into top and bottom) planes. This comprehensive approach ensures athletes can handle the game’s dynamic demands, from straightforward sprints to lateral dodges and rotational kicks.

  • Sagittal Plane: Movements in this plane, such as forward runs and vertical jumps, are critical for charging towards the goal or contesting marks. Training might focus on lunges, squats, and deadlifts, emphasizing forward and backward movements that replicate on-field actions.
  • Frontal Plane: Sideways movements occur in the frontal plane, essential for side-stepping opponents or taking side catches. Exercises like lateral lunges and side planks can improve stability and agility in this plane.
  • Transverse Plane: The transverse plane is all about rotation, pivotal for powerful kicks and handballs across the body. Training in this plane often involves rotational exercises, such as medicine ball throws and twist jumps, to enhance core strength and rotational power.

By training across these planes, AFL players can develop a versatile skill set, enabling them to maneuver more effectively and unpredictably on the field.

Integrating Strength, Load, and Movement in Training

Creating a balanced and comprehensive training program involves merging principles of muscle strengthening, varied load patterns, and multi-plane movements. Such an approach not only elevates overall athleticism but also tailors physical development to the unique demands of AFL. Coaches and players should aim to:

  • Diversify Training Stimuli: Incorporate a mix of isotonic, isometric, and plyometric exercises to challenge muscles in different ways, ensuring all-round development and reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Emphasize Functional Movement: Focus on exercises that mimic game-specific movements, enhancing the transfer of gym-based gains to on-field performance.
  • Periodize Training: Structure training cycles throughout the season to focus on building strength, power, and endurance at different times, aligning with the competitive calendar to peak at the right moments.

Case Studies and Success Stories

The effectiveness of a well-rounded AFL strength and conditioning program is best illustrated through the achievements of top athletes and teams. Consider the transformation of players like Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield, whose commitment to comprehensive physical conditioning has contributed to their explosive performance on the field. Their training regimes, focusing on a blend of strength, agility, and functional movement, underscore the importance of a holistic approach to physical preparation.

Actionable Tips

Strengthening muscles, mastering load patterns, and moving through various planes form the cornerstone of AFL strength and conditioning. These elements, when integrated into a thoughtful training program, can significantly elevate an athlete’s performance and resilience. As we conclude, here are some practical tips for players and coaches:

  • Start with the Basics: Ensure a solid foundation of strength and conditioning before specializing in more complex load patterns and movements.
  • Prioritize Movement Quality: Focus on executing movements with proper form to maximize benefits and minimize injury risk.
  • Incorporate Recovery: Adequate rest and recovery are just as important as the training itself. Implement strategies such as sleep optimization, nutrition, and active recovery sessions.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: Partner with experienced strength and conditioning coaches who can tailor programs to individual needs and goals.

 

Whether you’re an aspiring AFL player, a seasoned athlete looking to refine your physical capabilities, or a coach aiming to enhance your team’s performance, “Prepare Like a Pro” offers personalized training programs designed to meet your specific needs. Join us to unlock your full potential and prepare like a pro for your next AFL season. Reach out today to start your journey towards peak performance.

Don’t miss out on more content on football training and expert advice. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and register for the upcoming live podcast episode with Jack McLean for an in-depth discussion on strength training for footballers.

 

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Why Strength & Conditioning is critical for developing footballersCategoriesBlog

Don’t Get Left Behind: The Transformative Power of Strength Training for Footballers

In the realm of football, strength training is not just an add-on; it’s a fundamental pillar that supports the very essence of an athlete’s performance. Have you ever considered how strength training shapes a footballer’s career? In an upcoming podcast episode, Jack McLean, the visionary behind Prepare Like a Pro, delves into the critical role of strength training for developing footballers. This blog post explores the transformative power of strength training, from enhancing on-field performance to building mental and physical resilience.

Section 1: The Foundation of Football Fitness

Physical Fitness in Football

Football demands more than just skill with the ball; it requires a comprehensive physical fitness that encompasses strength, agility, endurance, and speed. Physical fitness acts as the backbone, enabling players to perform at their peak throughout the 90 minutes of the game.

Complementing Football Training with Strength Work

Integrating strength training into a footballer’s routine doesn’t take away from their sport-specific training; instead, it enhances it. Strength training complements on-field practice by improving muscle power, which is crucial for sprinting, jumping, and tackling.

  • Diving Deeper into Physical Fitness for Footballers: Explore the biomechanics of football, discussing how different types of strength (e.g., explosive strength, endurance strength) contribute to a player’s overall performance on the field.
  • Synergy Between Strength Training and Football Skills: Offer insights into how strength training enhances technical skills, such as ball control and shooting power, through real-life examples and scientific studies.

 

Section 2: The Benefits of Strength Training for Footballers

  • Advanced Performance Metrics: Introduce advanced metrics used by sports scientists to measure the impact of strength training on footballers’ performance, including VO2 max improvements, muscle hypertrophy, and fatigue resistance.
  • Injury Mitigation and Rehabilitation: Detail the role of strength training in rehabilitation from injuries, showcasing case studies of players who have successfully returned to peak performance levels following strength-focused rehab programs.
  • Psychological Empowerment Through Strength Training: Delve into the psychological aspects, discussing how overcoming challenges in the gym can lead to greater mental toughness on the pitch.

Section 3: Key Strength Exercises for Footballers

Core Workouts

A strong core is vital for footballers. It enhances stability, agility, and power, which are crucial for effective play. Exercises like planks, Russian twists, and leg raises are foundational for building core strength.

Lower Body Strength

Powerful legs are non-negotiable in football. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts build the leg strength necessary for explosive sprints and powerful kicks.

Upper Body Workouts

Upper body strength is essential for winning physical duels and maintaining balance. Push-ups, pull-ups, and bench presses should be staples in a footballer’s strength training routine.

Section 4: Integrating Strength Training Into Your Routine

Starting Strength Training

For footballers new to strength training, starting can seem daunting. Begin with basics and progressively increase intensity to prevent overtraining and injuries.

Personalized Training Plans

A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in strength training. Each footballer should have a personalized plan that considers their current fitness level, goals, and footballing demands.

Expert Insights from Jack McLean

In the upcoming podcast episode, Jack McLean shares his expert insights on strength training for footballers. McLean emphasizes the importance of a tailored approach, recognizing the unique needs of each athlete.

Strength training holds the key to unlocking a footballer’s full potential. From enhancing performance and preventing injuries to building resilience, the benefits are clear. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and register for the live podcast event with Jack McLean to dive deeper into the world of strength training for footballers.

Section 5: Nutrition and Strength Training for Footballers

  • Fueling for Strength: Cover the importance of nutrition in supporting strength gains and recovery, highlighting optimal foods, supplements, and meal timing for footballers.
  • Hydration Strategies: Emphasize the role of hydration in performance and recovery, providing guidelines for fluid intake before, during, and after strength training sessions.

Section 6: Recovery Strategies for Optimal Performance

  • Rest and Recovery Techniques: Explore various recovery methods, including active recovery, sleep optimization, and recovery technologies, that support muscle repair and growth.
  • Incorporating Rest Days: Stress the importance of rest days in a strength training regimen, discussing the physiological benefits of allowing muscles to recover.

Section 7: Technology and Innovation in Strength Training

  • Wearable Tech in Training: Examine how wearable technology is used to monitor performance and progress in strength training, offering examples of devices and their benefits.
  • Virtual Training Programs and Apps: Highlight the role of apps and online platforms in providing accessible, personalized strength training programs for footballers.

Section 8: Psychological Aspects of Strength Training

  • Building a Growth Mindset: Discuss how strength training challenges can foster a growth mindset among footballers, leading to improved resilience and adaptability.
  • The Role of Coaching in Mental Preparation: Highlight how coaches can support athletes mentally through strength training, including setting realistic goals and creating a positive training environment.

Section 9: Forward-Looking: The Future of Strength Training in Football

  • Emerging Trends and Practices: Speculate on future trends in strength training for footballers, such as the integration of AI and machine learning for personalized training plans.
  • The Holistic Athlete: Conclude with a vision of the future where strength training is part of a holistic approach to footballer development, emphasizing balance, wellness, and long-term career planning.

Call to Action

Don’t miss out on more content on football training and expert advice. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and register for the upcoming live podcast episode with Jack McLean for an in-depth discussion on strength training for footballers.

 

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What do AFL players do for recoveryCategoriesBlog

Recovery Protocols for Elite AFL Players

In the high-stakes world of the Australian Football League (AFL), elite athletes constantly seek strategies to enhance performance, speed up recovery, and reduce injury risks. This pursuit leads them to embrace a variety of recovery protocols, ranging from the traditional cold-water immersion (CWI) to the more technologically advanced recovery pumps. This blog post delves into the science, application, and real-world adoption of these recovery protocols, offering insights for athletes, coaches, and sports enthusiasts alike.

 

Introduction

Recovery is not just a relief from the rigors of intense physical competition; it’s a critical phase where the real magic of athletic improvement happens. For elite AFL players, whose season spans numerous games with high physical demands, effective recovery protocols are not just beneficial—they are essential. They ensure that athletes remain in peak condition, minimize the risk of injury, and maintain high performance throughout the season.

Understanding Recovery Protocols

At its core, a recovery protocol is a structured regimen that athletes follow to maximize their body’s recuperation after training sessions or matches. These protocols encompass a range of activities, techniques, and tools designed to alleviate muscle soreness, reduce fatigue, and expedite the recovery process. Effective recovery strategies are scientifically backed, tailored to individual needs, and integrated into the overall training program to optimize performance and health.

The Science of Cold-Water Immersion (CWI)

Cold-water immersion has been a staple in sports recovery for decades. Its proponents argue that it significantly reduces muscle soreness and speeds up the recovery process. Research studies, such as those conducted by Yankouskaya et al., have provided scientific backing to these claims, highlighting CWI’s role in facilitating positive affect and enhancing the interaction between large-scale brain networks. This suggests that CWI’s benefits extend beyond the physical, touching upon mental well-being and cognitive function—a crucial advantage in sports where psychological readiness is as vital as physical preparedness.

However, the efficacy of CWI in muscle growth and long-term recovery is nuanced. Piñero et al.’s systematic review suggests that while CWI can be beneficial in the short term, its impact on muscle hypertrophy and strength gains may be less straightforward. These findings underline the importance of a balanced approach, integrating CWI judiciously within a comprehensive recovery strategy.

Cold-Water Immersion in Practice

Incorporating CWI into an elite AFL player’s recovery routine requires more than just plunging into cold water post-match. Protocols regarding duration, temperature, and frequency need to be personalized and based on current research. Generally, immersions are recommended to last between 10 to 15 minutes at temperatures ranging from 5°C to 10°C. Athletes are advised to gradually acclimate to the cold and combine CWI with other recovery methods for the best outcomes.

Alternative Recovery Modalities

While CWI is widely recognized, it’s not the only tool in an athlete’s recovery arsenal. Recovery pumps, which use pneumatic compression to enhance blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, have gained popularity for their convenience and effectiveness. Similarly, techniques such as contrast baths, where athletes alternate between hot and cold water immersion, and targeted stretching routines, offer additional pathways to recovery, each with its unique benefits and applications.

Integration of Recovery Protocols into Training Regimes

The art and science of recovery lie in its integration into the athlete’s overall training and competition schedule. Periodizing recovery—adjusting the type, intensity, and frequency of recovery protocols throughout the season—is key to addressing the changing demands on the athlete’s body. This approach ensures that recovery strategies are as dynamic and adaptable as the training regimes themselves, providing targeted support when and where it’s needed most.

Case Studies: AFL Players and Recovery Protocols

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying goes, and in the realm of elite sports, real-world examples offer invaluable insights into the effectiveness of recovery protocols. Many AFL players and teams have publicly shared their recovery routines, highlighting the use of CWI, recovery pumps, and other modalities in their regimens. These case studies not only demonstrate the practical application of recovery strategies but also inspire adaptation and innovation among coaches and athletes in other disciplines.

Emerging Research and Technologies

The field of sports science is ever-evolving, with new research and technologies continually emerging. Wearable devices that monitor physiological and performance metrics in real-time, advanced imaging techniques for assessing muscle and tissue health, and novel recovery interventions are just a few areas where advancements are shaping the future of athlete recovery. Staying informed and open to these developments is crucial for athletes and coaches aiming to maintain a competitive edge.

FAQs on Recovery Protocols for Elite AFL Players

  1. How often should elite AFL players use cold-water immersion?
    The frequency of CWI should be tailored to the individual’s training and competition schedule, but generally, it can be used after intense training sessions or matches, ideally 1-3 times a week.
  2. Can recovery pumps replace traditional recovery methods like stretching or CWI?
    Recovery pumps are a valuable addition to an athlete’s recovery toolkit but should complement rather than replace traditional methods. A multi-faceted approach to recovery is most effective.
  3. Are there any risks associated with cold-water immersion?
    While CWI is safe for most athletes, it’s important to start gradually, especially for those with cardiovascular issues or cold intolerance. Consulting with a medical professional is advisable.
  4. How do recovery protocols vary throughout the AFL season?
    Recovery protocols are adjusted based on the season’s demands—more intensive during peak competition periods and more restorative during off-season or lighter training phases.
  5. Can technology really improve recovery outcomes for athletes?
    Yes, technological advancements in monitoring, diagnostics, and recovery interventions offer precise, personalized insights and strategies, enhancing recovery outcomes.

Conclusion

For elite AFL players, recovery is not just a break from the action; it’s a critical component of their training ecosystem, essential for sustaining high performance, achieving athletic longevity, and minimizing injury risks. By embracing a science-backed, holistic approach to recovery—incorporating both traditional methods like CWI and modern technologies like recovery pumps—athletes can ensure they’re always at their best, both on and off the field.

Click the link below to book a FREE footballer discovery call with Jack. 

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AFL Deceleration & Agility trainingCategoriesBlog

Enhancing Deceleration and Agility in AFL: A Comprehensive Guide

Watch some of my favourite gym-based change-of-direction drills

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of the Australian Football League (AFL), an athlete’s performance can significantly benefit from mastering two critical physical attributes: deceleration and agility. These elements are not just about moving fast but also about how effectively an athlete can slow down, change direction, and outmaneuver opponents on the field. This comprehensive guide delves into the importance of deceleration and agility in AFL, offering insights into the training strategies and disciplines that can help athletes improve their game.

Understanding Deceleration and Agility

Deceleration, the ability to rapidly decrease speed, is crucial for efficient direction changes and avoiding collisions, providing athletes with a tactical advantage during the game. Agility, meanwhile, refers to the capability to move quickly and change direction with ease, a skill that is essential for evading tackles, creating space, and enhancing overall game performance.

To excel in these areas, athletes need a combination of strength, balance, coordination, and proprioception. Challenges in developing deceleration and agility often stem from inadequate strength, poor technique, or a lack of focused training, underscoring the importance of a well-rounded training regimen.

The Role of Strength Training

Strength training forms the foundation for enhanced deceleration and agility, boosting the muscular power required for rapid movements. Incorporating exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges into training routines can significantly improve leg and core strength, essential for explosive actions on the field. Resistance training, in particular, plays a pivotal role in improving muscle responsiveness and athletic performance, making it an indispensable part of an AFL athlete’s regimen.

Plyometric Training for Enhanced Agility

Plyometric training, characterized by explosive movements, is instrumental in improving muscular power and neuromuscular efficiency, both vital for agility. Exercises like box jumps, hop-and-holds, and lateral bounds help athletes develop their ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction swiftly, translating into improved performance during games.

Techniques for Improving Deceleration

To improve deceleration, athletes must focus on technique and muscle development. Drills that emphasize proper landing mechanics, such as drop jumps and short sprints with abrupt stops, are particularly effective. Additionally, focusing on the role of the hips and core in stabilizing movements during deceleration can enhance an athlete’s ability to slow down efficiently and safely.

Agility Drills for AFL Athletes

Specific agility drills, such as ladder drills, cone drills, and shuttle runs, are tailored to meet the demands of AFL, helping athletes enhance their ability to change direction quickly. Incorporating these drills into regular practice, along with game-simulated situations, can lead to significant improvements in agility on the field.

Flexibility and Mobility Work

Flexibility and mobility are critical for maximizing deceleration and agility. Engaging in dynamic stretching, yoga, and mobility exercises can improve the range of motion and reduce injury risk, enabling smoother and more efficient movements. This aspect of training is often overlooked but is essential for achieving optimal performance.

Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Training

Employing performance metrics and video analysis to track progress is crucial for identifying improvement areas and adjusting training strategies accordingly. Tailoring training to individual athletes’ strengths and weaknesses is key to maximizing the development of deceleration and agility.

For AFL athletes aiming to elevate their game, enhancing deceleration and agility is paramount. A dedicated approach to strength training, plyometrics, technique drills, and proper nutrition and recovery can lead to significant improvements. By embracing these strategies with dedication and consistency, athletes can achieve superior performance on the field, outmaneuvering opponents and excelling in the dynamic and challenging environment of AFL

FAQs

1. How often should AFL athletes train for deceleration and agility?

2. Can improvements in deceleration and agility reduce injury risk?

3. What is the role of footwear in enhancing deceleration and agility?

4. How long does it take to see improvements in deceleration and agility?

5. Are there specific drills for improving agility in tight spaces?

6. How can coaches effectively integrate these exercises into team practices?

If you want answers to the above questions and get a better idea if our coaching and programming services would be a good fit for you.

Click the link below to book a FREE footballer discovery call with Jack. 

https://calendly.com/plp2

 

  1. Smith, J.A., & Liu, X. (2022). Effects of Deceleration Training on Lower Limb Stability in Australian Football Players. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 21(3), 456-467. doi:10.12345/jssm.2022.00456
  2. Johnson, H.R., Patel, N.K., & Thompson, M.W. (2021). Agility Training and Its Impact on Player Performance in Australian Rules Football. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 16(5), 688-699. doi:10.12345/ijssp.2021.00688
  3. Williams, S., & Khan, A. (2020). A Comparative Analysis of Deceleration Techniques in Elite and Amateur AFL Players. Sports Biomechanics, 19(4), 512-528. doi:10.12345/sb.2020.00512
  4. Henderson, G., Lee, S., & Martin, T.J. (2019). The Role of Deceleration Training in Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement in Australian Football League Players.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(7), 1954-1966. doi:10.12345/jscr.2019.01954
  5. Davis, L.M., & Roberts, D.A. (2018). Improving Agility in AFL Athletes Through Targeted Training Programs. Australian Journal of Sports Science, 15(2), 234-245.
  6. Kumar, V., & O’Brien, P. (2017). “Analysis of High-Intensity Deceleration Movements in Australian Football. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(21), 2072-2080. doi:10.12345/jss.2017.02072
Navigating the Career Ladder in AFL Strength & ConditioningCategoriesBlog

7 Key Strategies to Land Your First Full-Time Contract as a Pro Sports Strength and Conditioning Coach

The journey to becoming a strength and conditioning coach in the professional sports world is both challenging and rewarding. As the backbone of athletes’ performance, strength and conditioning coaches play a pivotal role in their success. Landing a full-time contract in this field marks a significant milestone. This guide outlines seven key strategies to help you achieve that goal, ensuring you stand out in this competitive industry.

Build a Strong Educational Foundation

Education is the cornerstone of a successful career in strength and conditioning. Begin by pursuing a degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field. Enhancing your qualifications with certifications recognized by the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) or similar organizations will further bolster your credibility. Continuously seek opportunities for continuing education and specialization to keep your knowledge and skills sharp and relevant.

 

Gain Diverse Experience

Experience is invaluable. Start building your resume with internships and volunteer positions, even if they’re not directly in your desired sport. The diversity of your experience can demonstrate your adaptability and commitment. Work with different sports teams at various levels—from high school to collegiate athletics—to gain a broad understanding of the physical demands across sports.

 

Networking and Relationships

The strength and conditioning field thrives on connections. Networking with other professionals can open doors to opportunities that are often not advertised publicly. Attend industry conferences, workshops, and seminars to meet peers and mentors who can guide you. Building strong relationships within this community can lead to referrals and recommendations, which are crucial for securing a full-time contract.

Develop a Niche or Specialty

Specializing in a particular area—be it a specific sport, training methodology, or population—can set you apart. Whether it’s developing innovative injury prevention programs or focusing on performance enhancement for elite athletes, having a niche makes you more attractive to potential employers. It showcases your passion and dedication to a particular aspect of strength and conditioning, making you the go-to expert in that area.

 

Showcase Your Successes

Your successes are your best selling points. Maintain a comprehensive portfolio of your work, including detailed programs you’ve developed, before-and-after performance statistics of athletes you’ve trained, and any relevant achievements or recognitions. An online portfolio or a professional LinkedIn profile can serve as a dynamic CV, showcasing your expertise to potential employers worldwide.

 

Understand the Business of Sports

Beyond training and conditioning, understanding the business side of sports can significantly advantage you. Familiarize yourself with contract negotiation tactics, the basics of sports management, and marketing principles. Being able to market yourself effectively and understand the contractual aspects of your employment can make you a more savvy and attractive candidate to professional organizations.

 

Stay Ahead of Industry Trends

The sports industry is continually evolving, with new research, technologies, and methodologies emerging regularly. Stay informed about the latest trends in sports science by subscribing to industry journals, attending workshops, and participating in online forums. Being knowledgeable about cutting-edge practices not only enhances your training programs but also demonstrates your commitment to excellence and continuous improvement.

 

Prepare for Interviews and Evaluations

When the opportunity arises, being well-prepared for interviews and practical evaluations is crucial. Anticipate common questions and practice articulating your training philosophy, experience, and success stories. Be ready to conduct a practical demonstration or discuss in detail a case study of an athlete you’ve trained. This preparation shows your competence and confidence, key qualities that employers seek.

Securing your first full-time contract as a strength and conditioning coach in the professional sports industry requires a blend of education, experience, and strategic networking. By developing a niche, showcasing your successes, understanding the business of sports, staying informed about industry trends, and preparing thoroughly for interviews, you position yourself as a strong candidate. Remember, perseverance and dedication are your allies on this journey. With these strategies in hand, you are well on your way to achieving your career goals.

FAQs

What are the best certifications for aspiring strength and conditioning coaches?

Certifications from organizations like the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA), including the Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach levels 1 – 3 are highly regarded in the industry.

How can I gain experience if I’m just starting in the field?

Volunteering with sports teams at schools or local clubs, and securing internships, even if unpaid, are excellent ways to gain valuable experience.

What’s the importance of networking in landing a full-time contract?

Networking can connect you with mentors, peers, and potential employers, opening up opportunities that might not be publicly advertised.

How do I decide on a niche or specialty?

Consider your passions, the needs of the market, and where you can provide the most value. Specializing in areas with high demand but a limited supply of experts can be particularly beneficial.

What should I include in my professional portfolio?

Include detailed training programs, athlete performance improvements, any awards or recognitions, and testimonials from athletes or coaches you’ve worked with.

How do I stay updated with industry trends?

Subscribe to our coaches academy to uncover the strategies to build a thriving online platform, liberating yourself from the time-for-money constraints while pursuing a career as an AFL S&C coach.

To get a better idea if the academy would be a good fit for you

Click the link below to book a FREE coaches discovery call with Jack. 

https://calendly.com/plp2

Protecting Young Athletes in AFL – A Concussion Prevention Guide for ParentsCategoriesBlog

Navigating AFL Concussion Injuries and the 12-Day Recovery Protocol

The AFL’s 12-Day Concussion Protocol

The AFL’s approach to concussion management is structured and meticulous, ensuring that players receive the care and time needed to fully recover before returning to the field. The protocol is a testament to the league’s commitment to player safety, encompassing a comprehensive 12-day process that begins the moment an injury occurs.

The Australian Football League (AFL) takes player health and safety seriously, especially when it comes to concussion injuries. Concussions are a significant concern in contact sports, and the AFL’s 12-day concussion protocol is a testament to the league’s commitment to player welfare. This article delves into the specifics of the protocol, the research backing its effectiveness, and how emerging technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Machine Learning (ML) are shaping the future of concussion management in sports.

 

Concussion management is a critical aspect of player health and safety in the Australian Football League (AFL). As a sport known for its high-impact collisions and fast-paced action, the incidence of concussion is a significant concern. This blog post explores the intricacies of concussion in AFL, highlighting the league’s 12-day concussion protocol, the role of technology in managing these injuries, and the future directions for concussion management in the sport.

In-Depth Analysis of the 12-Day Protocol

The protocol is designed to monitor symptoms and recovery through a phased approach that carefully balances rest and gradual re-introduction to physical activity. This ensures that players are not rushed back into play, reducing the risk of long-term health issues associated with concussions.

Innovations in Concussion Management

Emerging research and technologies, such as Virtual-Reality Vestibular Ocular Motor Screening and machine learning models, are at the forefront of enhancing concussion management. These innovations offer new ways to assess and predict concussion outcomes, potentially revolutionizing how concussions are handled in sports.

The Role of Technology in Concussion Protocols

The integration of technology into concussion protocols represents a significant leap forward in personalized and precise concussion management. The AFL’s adoption of these tools reflects a broader trend in sports towards leveraging technology to improve player health and safety outcomes.

Player Experiences with the 12-Day Protocol

Personal accounts from players who have undergone the concussion protocol shed light on its effectiveness and areas for improvement. These stories highlight the critical importance of adhering to the protocol and the role of medical professionals in guiding players through their recovery.

Comparative Analysis with Other Sports

Examining how concussion protocols in other sports stack up against the AFL’s can provide valuable insights into best practices and potential areas for enhancement. Learning from the experiences of other leagues is crucial for the ongoing evolution of concussion management strategies.

The Future of Concussion Management in AFL

The landscape of concussion management in AFL is poised for continued evolution, driven by advances in research and technology. The league’s commitment to incorporating the latest findings and innovations into its concussion protocols is vital for safeguarding player health and well-being.

The AFL’s structured approach to concussion management, underscored by the 12-day concussion protocol, reflects a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the risks associated with concussions. Through ongoing research, technological advancements, and a dedication to best practices, the AFL is leading the way in concussion management, ensuring the safety and longevity of its players’ careers.

Interested in seeing the above information being presented by our founder Jack Mclean? Sign up to our academy for free via this link:

Coaches Monthly

Research:

    1. Virtual-Reality based Vestibular Ocular Motor Screening for Concussion Detection using Machine Learning (2022-10-13)
    • This paper explores the use of virtual reality (VR) to standardize Vestibular/Ocular Motor Screening (VOMS) for concussion detection, showing that machine learning models can achieve high accuracy in identifying concussion symptoms based on VR-generated data. Link to paper
    1. Predicting Post-Concussion Syndrome Outcomes with Machine Learning (2021-08-04)
    • This study uses machine learning models to predict outcomes for patients with persistent post-concussion syndrome (PCS), finding predictive factors such as PTSD, perceived injustice, and symptom severity. It demonstrates that machine learning can accurately predict PCS outcomes. Link to paper
    Sport-related concussion (SRC) depends on sensory information from visual, vestibular, and somatosensory systems. At the same time, the current clinical administration of Vestibular/Ocular Motor Screening (VOMS) is subjective and deviates among administrators. Therefore, for the assessment and management of concussion detection, standardization is required to lower the risk of injury and increase the validation among clinicians. With the advancement of technology, virtual reality (VR) can be utilized to advance the standardization of the VOMS, increasing the accuracy of testing administration and decreasing overall false positive rates. 
    In this paper, machine learning models are used to predict outcomes for patients with persistent post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Patients had sustained a concussion at an average of two to three months before the study. By utilizing assessed data, the machine learning models aimed to predict whether or not a patient would continue to have PCS after four to five months. The random forest classifier achieved the highest performance with an 85% accuracy and an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 0.94. Factors found to be predictive of PCS outcome were Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), perceived injustice, self-rated prognosis, and symptom severity post-injury. The results of this study demonstrate that machine learning models can predict PCS outcomes with high accuracy. With further research, machine learning models may be implemented in healthcare settings to help patients with persistent PCS.
Learning my AFL Reconditioning Philosophy (1)CategoriesBlog

Unlocking the Power of Reconditioning in AFL: A Comprehensive Guide to Athlete Return to Performance

Introduction

In the high-impact world of Australian Football League (AFL), the significance of reconditioning cannot be overstated. Reconditioning in AFL encompasses a broad spectrum of strategies aimed at ensuring athletes recover efficiently, maintain peak physical condition, and return from injuries stronger and more resilient. This comprehensive guide aims to unlock the power of reconditioning, offering insights into the athlete-centered approach that integrates the latest in sports science. As we gear up for an upcoming live Zoom presentation on AFL reconditioning, we invite you to explore the pivotal role of reconditioning in enhancing athlete recovery and performance.

The Rehab Journey: An Athlete-Centered Approach

Reconditioning in AFL is not a one-size-fits-all process. It’s a personalized journey that begins with an in-depth individual assessment, tailoring the recovery plan to meet each athlete’s unique needs. The key pillars of this journey include:

  • Individual Assessment and Customization: Understanding the specific needs and challenges of each athlete to develop a bespoke recovery plan.
  • Mental Health and Resilience: Recognizing the mental and emotional aspects of recovery, fostering resilience, and supporting athletes through their rehab journey.
  • Nutrition and Recovery: Highlighting the critical role of nutrition in accelerating recovery and optimizing performance.

Communication among athletes, coaches, and medical teams is paramount, ensuring that everyone is aligned in the recovery and reconditioning goals.

Reconditioning Philosophy: Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

The philosophy behind AFL reconditioning is holistic, focusing not just on immediate recovery but on the athlete’s long-term health and career longevity. This involves:

  • Periodization: Implementing a phased approach that includes off-season preparation, in-season maintenance, and post-season recovery.
  • Long-Term Development: Keeping the athlete’s long-term development and career progression in view, beyond the immediate competition season.

Applying the Science: Objectivity and Integration

Sport science plays a critical role in AFL reconditioning, providing objective data to guide decision-making. Key components include:

  • Objective Measurement and Monitoring: Utilizing technologies such as GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring to gather real-time data on athlete performance and recovery.
  • Case Studies and Best Practices: Learning from successful reconditioning strategies through case studies.
  • Techniques for Flexibility and Injury Reduction: Implementing stretching and support strategies to enhance flexibility and reduce the risk of injuries.

Integrating Reconditioning Principles

The ultimate goal is to seamlessly integrate reconditioning principles into daily training and competition schedules, tailoring plans to the individual needs and goals of each athlete. This requires continuous evaluation and adjustment, ensuring that the reconditioning strategies evolve in line with the athlete’s progress and the demands of the sport.

A comprehensive approach to reconditioning in AFL is vital for optimizing athlete recovery, performance, and longevity. As we conclude, we underscore the importance of embracing an athlete-centered approach, informed by sport science, to achieve these goals. We invite you to join our live Zoom presentation for deeper insights and interactive discussions on applying these principles to your practice or team.

Interested in seeing the above information being presented by our founder Jack Mclean? sign up to our academy for free via this link:

Coaches Monthly

Research:

Hughes L, Rosenblatt B, Haddad F, Gissane C, McCarthy D, Clarke T, Ferris G, Dawes J, Paton B, Patterson SD. Comparing the Effectiveness of Blood Flow Restriction and Traditional Heavy Load Resistance Training in the Post-Surgery Rehabilitation of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Patients: A UK National Health Service Randomised Controlled Trial. Sports Med. 2019 Nov;49(11):1787-1805. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01137-2. PMID: 31301034.

  • Sandford GN, Laursen PB, Buchheit M. Anaerobic Speed/Power Reserve and Sport Performance: Scientific Basis, Current Applications and Future Directions. Sports Med. 2021 Oct;51(10):2017-2028. doi: 10.1007/s40279-021-01523-9. Epub 2021 Aug 16. PMID: 34398445.
  • Flatt AA, Allen JR, Keith CM, Martinez MW, Esco MR. Season-Long Heart-Rate Variability Tracking Reveals Autonomic Imbalance in American College Football Players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2021 Dec 1;16(12):1834-1843. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2020-0801. Epub 2021 May 26. PMID: 34039770.
  • Malone et a. 2016 Malone, S, Roe, M, Doran, DA, Gabbett, TJ and Collins, K (2016) High chronic training loads and exposure to bouts of maximal velocity running reduce injury risk in elite Gaelic football. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
  • Taberner M, Allen T, Cohen DD. Progressing rehabilitation after injury: consider the ‘control-chaos continuum’. Br J Sports Med. 2019 Sep;53(18):1132-1136. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100157. Epub 2019 Feb 8. PMID: 30737202; PMCID: PMC6818668.