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Largo plazo
Planificación de la temporada
Planificación diaria
Ajuste en la sesión
Feedback
¿Esta sesión consiguió los objetivos deseados relativos a las demandas de partido? ¿Cambia lo que haremos mañana?
¿Cómo podemos aprender de esto para la próxima temporada?
¿Está el atleta respondiendo como esperamos?
Feedback en directo de la actividad y respuesta del jugador¿Está el jugador alcanzando el umbral físico pretendido?
¿Podemos hacer progresar al jugador a lo largo
del plan de vuelta al juego?
¿Empujar o tirar? Nos permite decidir si un jugador necesita ser
animado para entrenar más duro o para relajar
Aporta un contexto objetivo y cuantificable a lo que estamos observando subjetivamente, según sea lo que esperábamos o no
¿El jugador ha demostrado que puede progresar a la siguiente fase de rehabilitación?
Identificar y fijar objetivos tácticos y físicos para el día
Evaluar la respuesta del jugador a la carga previa
Realizar baterías de test submáximos para evaluar el progreso y el rendimiento
Planificar el entrenamiento físico para complementar y
apoyar al estilo de juego del entrenador
Identificar qué estímulos y cuantificar cuánto
estímulo necesitan los jugadores
Entender el perfil del atleta temporada a temporada, construyendo un historial de carga
Preparar para las demandas específicas
del deporte y de la competición
Identificar periodos de mayor carga o estrés que pueden
tener un impacto en las lesiones o en el rendimiento
La planificación de la temporada debería basarse en una revisión de la
temporada anterior
Uso como herramienta educativa con
nuestros jugadores
Gestionar el progreso desde un equipo
Sub20/23 al equipo sénior
Gestionar a jugadores mayores en sus
últimos años de carrera deportiva
Tips que tener en cuenta a la hora de
monitorizar la carga del jugador en 5 niveles
More than a Metric: How Training Load is Used in Elite Sport for Athlete Management. Stephen W. West, Jo
Clubb, Lorena Torres-Ronda et al. Int J Sports Med
West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved.
Review Thieme
Current Training Load Climate
Athlete monitoring and training load management has long been
a key responsibility for sport scientists [1]. Over the last decade,
the emphasis on this topic in elite sport has risen exponentially,
largely stemming from the desire to achieve and maintain perfor-
mance and mitigate injury risk. Load can be defined as “the cumu-
lative amount of stress placed on an individual from multiple ses-
sions and games over a period of time” [2]. This definition is spe-
cific to physical loads (the primary focus of this editorial), while we
acknowledge other types of loads are also imperative to under-
standing athlete performance (e. g. psychological and social load).
More than a Metric: How Training Load is Used in Elite Sport for
Athlete Management
Authors
Stephen W. West1, 2 , Jo Clubb3, Lorena Torres-Ronda4, Daniel Howells5, Edward Leng6, Jason D. Vescovi7 ,
Sean Carmody8, Michael Posthumus9, 10, Torstein Dalen-Lorentsen11 , Johann Windt12, 13
Affiliations
	 1	 Department for Health , University of Bath, Bath,
	 2	 Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of
Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary
	 3	 Sports Performance, Buffalo Bills, Buffalo
	 4	 Performance, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia
	 5	 Sports Medicine and Performance, Houston Astros,
Houston
	 6	 Football Medicine and Science Department, Manchester
United FC, Manchester
	 7	 Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of
Toronto, Toronto
	 8	 Medical Department, Queens Park Rangers FC, London, UK
	 9	 Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town
Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Cape
Town
	10	 Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Cape Town
	11	 Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Department of Sports
Medicine, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, Oslo
	12	 Performance, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Vancouver
	13	 Department of Kinesiology, The University of British
Columbia, Vancouver
Key words
workload, performance, injury, training
accepted	10.09.2020
published online  2020
Bibliography
Int J Sports Med
DOI 10.1055/a-1268-8791
ISSN  0172-4622
© 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved.
Georg Thieme Verlag KG, Rüdigerstraße 14,
70469 Stuttgart, Germany
Correspondence
Stephen West
Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre
Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW, T2N 1N4
USA
Tel.: 825-712-1503
stephen.west@ucalgary.ca
Abstract
Training load monitoring is a core aspect of modern-day sport
science practice. Collecting, cleaning, analysing, interpreting,
and disseminating load data is usually undertaken with a view
to improve player performance and/or manage injury risk.
To target these outcomes, practitioners attempt to optimise
load at different stages throughout the training process, like
adjusting individual sessions, planning day-to-day, periodising
the season, and managing athletes with a long-term view. With
greater investment in training load monitoring comes greater
expectations, as stakeholders count on practitioners to trans-
form data into informed, meaningful decisions. In this edito-
rial we highlight how training load monitoring has many po-
tential applications and cannot be simply reduced to one
metric and/or calculation. With experience across a variety of
sporting backgrounds, this editorial details the challenges and
contextual factors that must be considered when interpreting
such data. It further demonstrates the need for those working
with athletes to develop strong communication channels with
all stakeholders in the decision-making process. Importantly,
this editorial highlights the complexity associated with using
training load for managing injury risk and explores the potential
for framing training load with a performance and training pro-
gression mindset. Thisdocumentwasdownloadedforpersonaluseonly.Unauthorizeddistributionisstrictlyprohibited.
Published online: 2020-10-19
West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved.
Review Thieme
Historically, athlete load management relied on coaches’ obser-
vations. As new technologies for measuring athlete training dose
and response surfaced (e. g. heart rate monitoring, tracking sys-
tems), the desire to harness and embrace these technologies pro-
liferated their use in sports science and medicine disciplines [1].
The pros and cons associated with many of these tools have been
extensively outlined previously in the literature [3, 4]. Therefore,
while we will not restate all these details within this editorial, it is
prudent to understand that the most valuable tools are those which
can provide accurate data to inform performance-related decisions
while minimising athlete and practitioner burden.
Physical load can be subdivided into two components: external
load (the external stressors applied to an athlete) and internal load
(the corresponding internal psychophysiological response of the
athlete) [5]. Whereas internal load may determine the “functional
outcome” of the training process [5], often it is logistically more
difficult to capture, leading to the wider use of external metrics. Ir-
respective of how load is captured, it is crucial to critically appraise
the reliability, validity, and utility of the data being collected with-
in one’s respective context. Depending on resources and context,
this may be done through 1) existing independent validation, 2)
partnering with universities or industry to perform new validation
work, or 3) internal validation work, all of which may increase prac-
titioners’ confidence with a given technology.
With the exponential rise in available data, practitioners and re-
searchers have had to search for simple and efficient ways of cap-
turing, aggregating, and interpreting data. In some instances, cer-
tain metrics have been heavily relied upon, including high-speed
running distances for capturing load and the acute:chronic work-
load ratio (ACWR) for aggregating data. While these metrics were
openly welcomed by the sport science community as simple means
to assess changes in injury risk and have since been widely adopted
and proliferated in sports, the ACWR, in particular, has recently be-
come the subject of much debate in the peer reviewed [6] and non-
peer reviewed [7, 8] literature.
While early introductory research concentrated on the relation-
ship between load parameters and injury, this may have led to the
belief that these were the only measures of importance, however
it has since been stated that these measures should only be a com-
ponent of a wide variety of measures [9–11]. We agree that no sin-
gle metric can clearly state the risk of injury or state of prepared-
ness of an athlete and therefore review why load monitoring is far
more than any individual metric, and how it can play a vital role in
informing performance-related decisions. We outline the challeng-
es and merits of investing time in this process. Pooling experience
from multiple team and individual sports, we hope to describe
when and why monitoring athletes adds value for the modern
sports practitioner.
Models for Framing Training Load
Management
For sport science practitioners and researchers, it is important to
build data collection practices on the foundation of clearly defined
conceptual models linking the information to the desired outcome
[12]. Two constructs which underpin athlete monitoring practice
are performance and injury prevention. Although they are distinct
constructs, performance and injury are closely linked, as injuries
and subsequent training unavailability negatively affect team and
individual athlete performance [13].
‘Successful performance’ looks very different across sports, so
modelling how load relates to performance is challenging. Howev-
er, in endurance sports where performance is closely linked with
athletes’ ability to maximise physical output, systems modelling
has been used to good effect [14, 15]. It remains unknown wheth-
er these models apply in team sports where physical performance
and team success may not be congruent. Although physical per-
formance and team success may not always align, a recent frame-
work for the training process demonstrated the link by which train-
ing monitoring can enable performance outcomes [5]. In this
framework, using both external and internal load monitoring pro-
vides a link between the data being collected and the performance
construct being evaluated. By identifying key physical determi-
nants of performance, one can track athletes’ individual fitness re-
sponses to a training dose through mechanisms like submaximal
testing at periodic time points throughout the season to ensure
physical qualities are optimised.
Although minimising injury risk is desirable, injury is a complex
and dynamic outcome which is influenced by several risk factors,
often with no predictable pattern. This is best exemplified by a
complex model of sports injury, which outlines a web of determi-
nants that display a dynamic and open structure with inherent non-
linearity due to recursive loops and interactions between risk fac-
tors [16]. Although its complex nature makes injury prediction ex-
tremely difficult, recognising and measuring known risk factors may
help to determine periods when players may be at an increased risk
of injury. One of the most widely recognised models of injury risk
is that of Meeuwisse et al. [17], which demonstrates how these in-
trinsic and extrinsic risk factors not only influence risk but may also
change over time. Therefore, while a single baseline intake for non-
modifiable factors like age and sex may suffice, risk factors that
change dynamically (e. g. strength) must be measured repeatedly,
with a frequency that coincides with how often they change. ­Slowly
changing risk factors, such as athlete strength, previous injury, and
fitness levels can be measured at strategic phases throughout the
season, like at the end of pre-season. Finally, some measures in-
cluding load (which is a rapidly evolving risk factor) need to be up-
dated daily. Windt and Gabbett [18] describe how loads expose
athletes to potential injurious events, and alter athletes’ injury risk
profiles through positive and negative changes to modifiable risk
factors. How loads causally relate to injury risk is an area of ongo-
ing investigation and will likely develop as sport-, tissue- and load-
specific models are developed [19–21].
What Can We Use Training Load Data For?
Athlete monitoring data can inform decisions related to 1) the load
athletes need to be prepared for in competition, 2) the load they
are prescribed, and 3) their subsequent response to that load.
These span short-term decisions in the daily training environment
through to long-term season planning. While the specific imple-
mentation will vary across environments, we describe five over-
arching levels for these decisions spanning from long- to short-term
decisions, with several specific processes within each (▶Fig. 1).
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To inform athlete management at any level, practitioners must
establish whether the purpose of each change is to prepare, main-
tain, or adjust load in an optimal way. One must also consider what
the corresponding consequences of a change will be on injury risk
or readiness to perform. Although making small adjustments in re-
sponse to data in-session may have only acute changes for the ath-
lete, larger adaptations to season planning in response to histori-
cal trends or transition from one stage of a career to another may
have longer lasting implications for the athlete. Individual athlete
responses to stimuli at any level of ▶Fig. 1 are likely to range wide-
ly and, therefore, both the external dose and internal response
should be measured accordingly.
What We Should not Use Training Load For
The ability to predict outcomes such as performance and injury has
previously been described as the “Quest for the Holy Grail” for sport
science and sport medicine [22]. Unsurprisingly, injury prediction
has become a lucrative business, with bold marketing claims sug-
gesting that certain technologies may provide this ‘crystal ball’ to
sports practitioners. Despite these claims, we are not currently in
a position to objectively and reliably predict injury outcomes. No
single metric or collection of metrics should be used as a definitive
injury prediction tool. Rather, practitioners can gather the availa-
ble evidence and use it alongside their experience to guide ongo-
ing decision-making by balancing risks and reward for each player.
One danger is the potential to become risk-averse in one’s ap-
proach to managing athletes. The danger with framing athlete
monitoring within the lens of injury risk reduction is that it may lead
to a risk-averse mentality in which one thinks they can protect the
player by resting them. However, it is now clear that the decision
to rest a player has potentially harmful consequences by restrict-
ing a playerʼs exposure to important moderators of injury risk such
as high speed running [23, 24] and a well-developed chronic train-
ing exposure [11]. While it is an unwelcome truth, injury is inevita-
ble in sport, a by-product of pushing players to their performance
limits needed to be successful. Therefore, the approach of func-
tional overreaching and strategic recovery periods to optimise per-
formance presents a positive approach to monitoring rather than
reducing injuries alone.
Contextualising the Data in your Environment
When interpreting athlete monitoring data, practitioners must
weigh the potential positive and negative consequences of expos-
ing an athlete to a training stimulus. Having collected, analysed,
and interpreted the data, practitioners are required to add context
to support their subsequent recommendations. When making
these training decisions, “Content is king, but context is God” [25].
Both performance and injury are highly complex, so the context
applied by a practitioner when balancing the risks and rewards as-
sociated with each given training stimulus is vital [26]. ▶Fig. 2 pro-
vides just a sample of the contextual considerations that inform
athlete management. While training load contributes as a portion
Feedback
In-session
adjustment
Day-to-day planning
Season planning
Long-term use
Does it change what we do tomorrow?Did this session meet our desired training targets relative to the match demands?
How can we learn from this for the next session? Is the athlete responding as we might expect?
Live feedback on player exposure and
response
Is the player hitting targeted physical
threshold?
Provides objective, quantifiable context to what we are
observing subjectively, whether it is what we expected or not
Can we progress this player along the
return to play pathway?
Push or pull? Allows us to decide whether an athlete
needs to be pushed harder or pulled back.
Has the athlete demonstrated he/she can progress to
the next phase of rehab?
Identify and target tactical and physical outcome
for the day.
May incorporate submaximal testing within session to
measure progression and identify readiness to
perform.
Assess player response to previous load and inform
decision-making process on risk/reward basis.
Identify what stimuli and how much of those stimuli
individual players and the team need to perform.
Plan physical training to complement and
support style of play and tactics of the coach.
Planning the season should be based
on a review of previous season.
Prepare for sport-specific average and
maximal competition demands.
Identify periods of increased load or stress that may impact
injury or performance outcomes.
Understand the athlete profile season on season,
building a history of training load.
Managing an athlete’s progression from
youth team into the senior team
Use as an education tool with our athletes.
Managing older players in the latter stages
of their career
▶Fig. 1	 Five overarching levels at which training load can inform athlete preparation and management. 1) Feedback, blue boxes; 2) in-session
adjustment, green boxes; 3) day-to-day planning, orange boxes; 4) season planning, red boxes; 5) long-term use, pink boxes. Training load uses that
span more than one category are represented by the split colour boxes.
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Review Thieme
of the picture, its modifiability makes it a desirable target for ad-
justment. Many of these are specific to match circumstances
[27, 28] and are externally controlled (for example, venue and turn-
around between games). Several refer to individual player charac-
teristics and, therefore, depend on the practitioner’s knowledge
of each player to inform the decision-making process. In many
cases, it is not possible to objectively capture the entire context
regularly, so practitioners must depend on their relationships with
the athletes through regular communication. As these relation-
ships develop, conversations become one of the most powerful ba-
rometers for practitioners to gauge an athlete’s load tolerance and
how this changes in response to other stressors. Considering the
athlete’s career stage as one example, a youth player going through
a developmental stage may require a more conservative loading
strategy (especially during growth spurts), when compared with a
first team player at the peak of his/her career. This simple example
demonstrates the inability of training load to be “cookie-cut”, with
each athlete needing individual attention to optimise their load.
Interdepartmental collaboration is pivotal for effective informed
decision-making. A challenge for sport scientists is distilling the
most meaningful information to other key stakeholders, including
the athletes themselves. Central to this process is that the message
and communication is delivered in appropriate language and for-
mat which can be understood by non-experts in the area.
Challenges and Complicating Factors to the
Load Monitoring Process
Aside from the contextual factors that need to be considered when
adapting an athlete’s training, there are several challenges for prac-
titioners to overcome. These can be broadly classified into issues
with data, monitoring restrictions, buy-in, working in lower partic-
ipation sports, and managing expectations.
Given the amount of data available to inform the decision-mak-
ing process, a number of data-related issues are apparent in ath-
lete monitoring. First and foremost, building trust in the data being
collected is essential. Where feasible, the use of psychometric prin-
ciples should be used to understand each technology’s limitations
and its associated validity and reliability [12, 29]. Included in this is
recognising the amount of error associated with a measure, to en-
sure that changes in that measure represent true change and not
simply error in collection.
From a logistical perspective, data collection procedures are
often hampered by available resources. For example, large squad
sizes (e. g. ~90 players during an NFL preseason) make regular in-
dividual measurements difficult. Given that external load measures
can be collected with less effort from players (just wearing the de-
vice), such external measures are often collected more frequently
than internal load measures that place a larger burden on the ath-
letes (e. g. wellness surveys, RPE). Furthermore, in sports where
Starter vs substitute
Turnaround since last game
Position
Scoreline
Opposition
Time in game Match factors
Tactics
Venue (Home/Away)
Distance travelled
Match importance
Time between consecutive games
Time zones crossed
Access to facilities
Early season
Late season
Off-season
Time of year
Training factors
Team level
Context
Player level
Physical
Training microcycle
Environment
Weather
Heat
Altitude
Humidity
Surface type
Personal protective equipment
Coaching style
Crowd
Psychological
Recent
Long term
Acute load
Chronic load
Change in load
Characteristics
Previous injury
Injury history
Social support
Coping mechanisms
Media pressure
Sleep
Mood
Fatigue
Current contract status
Work ethic
Player professionalism
Risk-taking behaviours
Style of play
Player personality
Quality
Quantity
Time since last injury
To team performance
To team moral
Leadership
Age
Ethnicity
Position
Player experience
Career stage
Player importance
Genetics
Training macrocyle
Match exposure
Fitness levels
Strength levels
Training load status
Nutrition
HydrationRecent results
Competition type
Desired training outcomes for each training
block
Post-season/playoffs
In-season
Jet lag
▶Fig. 2	 Contextual factors when managing athlete injury risk and readiness to perform. Boxes are colour-coded as to their degree of modifiability
by the coaching/conditioning staff as a group. Green box indicates modifiable risk factor, orange indicates somewhat modifiable, and red box indi-
cates non-modifiable. Training load is highlighted in a yellow box to demonstrate it is only part of the overall picture.
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West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved.
players are based remotely or move in and out of teams (e. g. na-
tional teams, farm teams), capturing load and aggregating the data
can be difficult if there are sporadic periods of absenteeism, which
leads to problems in maintaining normal monitoring practices [30].
Missing data may also occur when league rules ban wearable tech-
nology use during matches, or mandate alternative technologies
during competition.
Athlete and coach ‘buy-in’ is one of the greatest challenges to
athlete management. With respect to training load specifically, this
is a major challenge in sports where tradition stigmatises athlete
monitoring, with coaches adopting the tried and tested methods
of observation. This may be especially prevalent in lower participa-
tion sports where little research evidence exists. These environ-
ments may learn from similar sports to support the need for invest-
ment in the practice of athlete monitoring. Taking the research and
practice from other sporting environments and critically apprais-
ing the merits of this in the context of one’s own sport is an essen-
tial skill for sport scientists and should be included in formal train-
ing and continued professional development.
Using technology in sport has become so commonplace that in
many environments it is culturally accepted and expected of sport
science staff. Sport scientists may be required to provide accurate,
consistent and actionable insights daily. However, providing these
insights becomes more challenging based on all the potential con-
founders, contextual factors, and considerations associated with
using load data. The lack of clear links between this data and either
injury or performance has arguably led to a negative perception of
training load management. From a causal perspective, another
challenge is not knowing whether a decision influences an outcome
– if a player is pulled from training due to a negative response to
previous load, that player will not get injured. However, one will
never know what would have happened if they had played. Con-
versely, should the athlete play and he/she gets injured, the blame
may be attributed to the practitioner for not picking up on the
warning signs. This encourages risk-averse behaviour and may be
limiting athletes’ ability to train and play.
In “Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain
Insights” [31], Gary Klein outlines four common guidelines for de-
cision support systems. These are:
1.	 The system should allow people to do their jobs better;
2.	It should clearly display critical cues, the items of information
that users rely on to do their jobs;
3.	 Filter out irrelevant data so the operators are not overwhelmed
with meaningless messages;
4.	 The system should monitor progress toward their goals.
Such guidelines could theoretically underpin a discussion about
athlete monitoring systems. Klein outlines several challenges as-
sociated with these guidelines, but sport scientists can clearly use
these principles as a framework for their work. While these guide-
lines best work when there is structure and order in the system, as
is the case in elite sport, the outcomes are inherently disorderly
and complex. Therefore, these guidelines should be re-visited reg-
ularly to ensure they are still appropriate for the monitoring out-
comes. Having a set of guidelines to frame athlete monitoring pro-
cesses will help to mitigate some of the challenges described with-
in this section and ensure realistic and achievable expectations.
What Next for Training Load Monitoring?
Training load monitoring is evolving rapidly and as technology im-
proves it is important that we embrace new insights afforded by
such data, while still providing concise and actionable feedback to
key decision makers. Despite the progress made in recent years, a
number of improvements are still required. In a recent paper, Kalk-
hoven et al. [21] outlined the need for greater consideration for tis-
sue specificity when considering injury risk, especially in the cases
of stress, strain, and overuse injuries. They provide a conceptual
model for athletic injury consisting of causal contextual factors,
force application and distribution, structural load application, and
tissue-specific stress and strain. Although this demonstrates the
complexity of understanding injury risk, it is again important to
frame athlete monitoring in the context of the type of injuries prac-
titioners are trying to prevent.
In practice, there are several improvements which could be
made to the current methods of data collection and analysis
[32, 33]. These range from new technology becoming available to
improvements in data analysis and interpretation. Our ability to
measure some aspects of external load remains limited, highly
time-consuming, and often unreliable. Examples of this include the
high levels of isometric external load in scrummaging by forwards
in rugby, by linemen in American football, and in basketball when
jostling for possession. In handball or volleyball, capturing arm
swings or throws and the associated loads on the shoulder remains
difficult but important. Furthermore, some sports do not allow
wearable technology use during competition, meaning a signifi-
cant portion of the external load experienced by the athlete can-
not be captured. Therefore the idea of ‘invisible monitoring’,
whereby loads may be evaluated while minimising athlete and prac-
titioner burden, carries high potential. Examples of more ‘invisible
monitoring’ include equipment with inbuilt instrumentation such
as mouthguards or smart garments, or optical tracking solutions
that do not require athletes to wear additional equipment or tech-
nology [34]. Finally, new technologies may bring previously ‘siloed’
data streams together. For example, linking physical tracking data
to event data provides valuable context compared to the physical
data alone [35].
Conclusion
Athlete monitoring is a vital tool in the modern-day sport scien-
tists’ toolbox. While recent framing may have overemphasised a
medicalised rationale for athlete monitoring, workloads can inform
decision-making in diverse ways: from historical reviews of match
and training demands, through daily real-time decision support,
to proactive future planning. This informed decision-making pro-
cess must consider the limitations with any data collected and its
psychometric properties – including its theoretical relevance, va-
lidity, reliability, and sensitivity.
Ultimately, athletes play sport to perform, not avoid injury, so
re-calibrating their focus from “predicting” injury and towards max-
imising performance may help sport scientists’ improve player and
coach buy-in. Currently, athlete monitoring stands between art
and science, with practitioners working to contextualise load-re-
lated data within the decision-making process. Both injury and per-
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formance are multifactorial and cannot be explained by any risk
factor in isolation. It has been said that “prediction of the path of a
hurricane is an imperfect science, but useful enough to guide crit-
ical decisions and give estimates” [36]. In this vein, while training
load management is highly complex and imperfect, it is an impor-
tant piece of the puzzle to help guide decisions for maximising play-
er performance, welfare, and team success.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank James Fern (@JamesFern83) for his
editing assistance.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors have no conflicts of interest to report. This editorial meets
the ethical standards of the journal as per Harris et al. [37].
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Tips monitorización cargas

  • 1. Largo plazo Planificación de la temporada Planificación diaria Ajuste en la sesión Feedback ¿Esta sesión consiguió los objetivos deseados relativos a las demandas de partido? ¿Cambia lo que haremos mañana? ¿Cómo podemos aprender de esto para la próxima temporada? ¿Está el atleta respondiendo como esperamos? Feedback en directo de la actividad y respuesta del jugador¿Está el jugador alcanzando el umbral físico pretendido? ¿Podemos hacer progresar al jugador a lo largo del plan de vuelta al juego? ¿Empujar o tirar? Nos permite decidir si un jugador necesita ser animado para entrenar más duro o para relajar Aporta un contexto objetivo y cuantificable a lo que estamos observando subjetivamente, según sea lo que esperábamos o no ¿El jugador ha demostrado que puede progresar a la siguiente fase de rehabilitación? Identificar y fijar objetivos tácticos y físicos para el día Evaluar la respuesta del jugador a la carga previa Realizar baterías de test submáximos para evaluar el progreso y el rendimiento Planificar el entrenamiento físico para complementar y apoyar al estilo de juego del entrenador Identificar qué estímulos y cuantificar cuánto estímulo necesitan los jugadores Entender el perfil del atleta temporada a temporada, construyendo un historial de carga Preparar para las demandas específicas del deporte y de la competición Identificar periodos de mayor carga o estrés que pueden tener un impacto en las lesiones o en el rendimiento La planificación de la temporada debería basarse en una revisión de la temporada anterior Uso como herramienta educativa con nuestros jugadores Gestionar el progreso desde un equipo Sub20/23 al equipo sénior Gestionar a jugadores mayores en sus últimos años de carrera deportiva Tips que tener en cuenta a la hora de monitorizar la carga del jugador en 5 niveles More than a Metric: How Training Load is Used in Elite Sport for Athlete Management. Stephen W. West, Jo Clubb, Lorena Torres-Ronda et al. Int J Sports Med
  • 2. West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved. Review Thieme Current Training Load Climate Athlete monitoring and training load management has long been a key responsibility for sport scientists [1]. Over the last decade, the emphasis on this topic in elite sport has risen exponentially, largely stemming from the desire to achieve and maintain perfor- mance and mitigate injury risk. Load can be defined as “the cumu- lative amount of stress placed on an individual from multiple ses- sions and games over a period of time” [2]. This definition is spe- cific to physical loads (the primary focus of this editorial), while we acknowledge other types of loads are also imperative to under- standing athlete performance (e. g. psychological and social load). More than a Metric: How Training Load is Used in Elite Sport for Athlete Management Authors Stephen W. West1, 2 , Jo Clubb3, Lorena Torres-Ronda4, Daniel Howells5, Edward Leng6, Jason D. Vescovi7 , Sean Carmody8, Michael Posthumus9, 10, Torstein Dalen-Lorentsen11 , Johann Windt12, 13 Affiliations 1 Department for Health , University of Bath, Bath, 2 Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary 3 Sports Performance, Buffalo Bills, Buffalo 4 Performance, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia 5 Sports Medicine and Performance, Houston Astros, Houston 6 Football Medicine and Science Department, Manchester United FC, Manchester 7 Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto 8 Medical Department, Queens Park Rangers FC, London, UK 9 Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Cape Town 10 Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Cape Town 11 Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, Oslo 12 Performance, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Vancouver 13 Department of Kinesiology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Key words workload, performance, injury, training accepted 10.09.2020 published online  2020 Bibliography Int J Sports Med DOI 10.1055/a-1268-8791 ISSN  0172-4622 © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved. Georg Thieme Verlag KG, Rüdigerstraße 14, 70469 Stuttgart, Germany Correspondence Stephen West Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary 2500 University Drive NW, T2N 1N4 USA Tel.: 825-712-1503 stephen.west@ucalgary.ca Abstract Training load monitoring is a core aspect of modern-day sport science practice. Collecting, cleaning, analysing, interpreting, and disseminating load data is usually undertaken with a view to improve player performance and/or manage injury risk. To target these outcomes, practitioners attempt to optimise load at different stages throughout the training process, like adjusting individual sessions, planning day-to-day, periodising the season, and managing athletes with a long-term view. With greater investment in training load monitoring comes greater expectations, as stakeholders count on practitioners to trans- form data into informed, meaningful decisions. In this edito- rial we highlight how training load monitoring has many po- tential applications and cannot be simply reduced to one metric and/or calculation. With experience across a variety of sporting backgrounds, this editorial details the challenges and contextual factors that must be considered when interpreting such data. It further demonstrates the need for those working with athletes to develop strong communication channels with all stakeholders in the decision-making process. Importantly, this editorial highlights the complexity associated with using training load for managing injury risk and explores the potential for framing training load with a performance and training pro- gression mindset. Thisdocumentwasdownloadedforpersonaluseonly.Unauthorizeddistributionisstrictlyprohibited. Published online: 2020-10-19
  • 3. West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved. Review Thieme Historically, athlete load management relied on coaches’ obser- vations. As new technologies for measuring athlete training dose and response surfaced (e. g. heart rate monitoring, tracking sys- tems), the desire to harness and embrace these technologies pro- liferated their use in sports science and medicine disciplines [1]. The pros and cons associated with many of these tools have been extensively outlined previously in the literature [3, 4]. Therefore, while we will not restate all these details within this editorial, it is prudent to understand that the most valuable tools are those which can provide accurate data to inform performance-related decisions while minimising athlete and practitioner burden. Physical load can be subdivided into two components: external load (the external stressors applied to an athlete) and internal load (the corresponding internal psychophysiological response of the athlete) [5]. Whereas internal load may determine the “functional outcome” of the training process [5], often it is logistically more difficult to capture, leading to the wider use of external metrics. Ir- respective of how load is captured, it is crucial to critically appraise the reliability, validity, and utility of the data being collected with- in one’s respective context. Depending on resources and context, this may be done through 1) existing independent validation, 2) partnering with universities or industry to perform new validation work, or 3) internal validation work, all of which may increase prac- titioners’ confidence with a given technology. With the exponential rise in available data, practitioners and re- searchers have had to search for simple and efficient ways of cap- turing, aggregating, and interpreting data. In some instances, cer- tain metrics have been heavily relied upon, including high-speed running distances for capturing load and the acute:chronic work- load ratio (ACWR) for aggregating data. While these metrics were openly welcomed by the sport science community as simple means to assess changes in injury risk and have since been widely adopted and proliferated in sports, the ACWR, in particular, has recently be- come the subject of much debate in the peer reviewed [6] and non- peer reviewed [7, 8] literature. While early introductory research concentrated on the relation- ship between load parameters and injury, this may have led to the belief that these were the only measures of importance, however it has since been stated that these measures should only be a com- ponent of a wide variety of measures [9–11]. We agree that no sin- gle metric can clearly state the risk of injury or state of prepared- ness of an athlete and therefore review why load monitoring is far more than any individual metric, and how it can play a vital role in informing performance-related decisions. We outline the challeng- es and merits of investing time in this process. Pooling experience from multiple team and individual sports, we hope to describe when and why monitoring athletes adds value for the modern sports practitioner. Models for Framing Training Load Management For sport science practitioners and researchers, it is important to build data collection practices on the foundation of clearly defined conceptual models linking the information to the desired outcome [12]. Two constructs which underpin athlete monitoring practice are performance and injury prevention. Although they are distinct constructs, performance and injury are closely linked, as injuries and subsequent training unavailability negatively affect team and individual athlete performance [13]. ‘Successful performance’ looks very different across sports, so modelling how load relates to performance is challenging. Howev- er, in endurance sports where performance is closely linked with athletes’ ability to maximise physical output, systems modelling has been used to good effect [14, 15]. It remains unknown wheth- er these models apply in team sports where physical performance and team success may not be congruent. Although physical per- formance and team success may not always align, a recent frame- work for the training process demonstrated the link by which train- ing monitoring can enable performance outcomes [5]. In this framework, using both external and internal load monitoring pro- vides a link between the data being collected and the performance construct being evaluated. By identifying key physical determi- nants of performance, one can track athletes’ individual fitness re- sponses to a training dose through mechanisms like submaximal testing at periodic time points throughout the season to ensure physical qualities are optimised. Although minimising injury risk is desirable, injury is a complex and dynamic outcome which is influenced by several risk factors, often with no predictable pattern. This is best exemplified by a complex model of sports injury, which outlines a web of determi- nants that display a dynamic and open structure with inherent non- linearity due to recursive loops and interactions between risk fac- tors [16]. Although its complex nature makes injury prediction ex- tremely difficult, recognising and measuring known risk factors may help to determine periods when players may be at an increased risk of injury. One of the most widely recognised models of injury risk is that of Meeuwisse et al. [17], which demonstrates how these in- trinsic and extrinsic risk factors not only influence risk but may also change over time. Therefore, while a single baseline intake for non- modifiable factors like age and sex may suffice, risk factors that change dynamically (e. g. strength) must be measured repeatedly, with a frequency that coincides with how often they change. ­Slowly changing risk factors, such as athlete strength, previous injury, and fitness levels can be measured at strategic phases throughout the season, like at the end of pre-season. Finally, some measures in- cluding load (which is a rapidly evolving risk factor) need to be up- dated daily. Windt and Gabbett [18] describe how loads expose athletes to potential injurious events, and alter athletes’ injury risk profiles through positive and negative changes to modifiable risk factors. How loads causally relate to injury risk is an area of ongo- ing investigation and will likely develop as sport-, tissue- and load- specific models are developed [19–21]. What Can We Use Training Load Data For? Athlete monitoring data can inform decisions related to 1) the load athletes need to be prepared for in competition, 2) the load they are prescribed, and 3) their subsequent response to that load. These span short-term decisions in the daily training environment through to long-term season planning. While the specific imple- mentation will vary across environments, we describe five over- arching levels for these decisions spanning from long- to short-term decisions, with several specific processes within each (▶Fig. 1). Thisdocumentwasdownloadedforpersonaluseonly.Unauthorizeddistributionisstrictlyprohibited.
  • 4. West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved. To inform athlete management at any level, practitioners must establish whether the purpose of each change is to prepare, main- tain, or adjust load in an optimal way. One must also consider what the corresponding consequences of a change will be on injury risk or readiness to perform. Although making small adjustments in re- sponse to data in-session may have only acute changes for the ath- lete, larger adaptations to season planning in response to histori- cal trends or transition from one stage of a career to another may have longer lasting implications for the athlete. Individual athlete responses to stimuli at any level of ▶Fig. 1 are likely to range wide- ly and, therefore, both the external dose and internal response should be measured accordingly. What We Should not Use Training Load For The ability to predict outcomes such as performance and injury has previously been described as the “Quest for the Holy Grail” for sport science and sport medicine [22]. Unsurprisingly, injury prediction has become a lucrative business, with bold marketing claims sug- gesting that certain technologies may provide this ‘crystal ball’ to sports practitioners. Despite these claims, we are not currently in a position to objectively and reliably predict injury outcomes. No single metric or collection of metrics should be used as a definitive injury prediction tool. Rather, practitioners can gather the availa- ble evidence and use it alongside their experience to guide ongo- ing decision-making by balancing risks and reward for each player. One danger is the potential to become risk-averse in one’s ap- proach to managing athletes. The danger with framing athlete monitoring within the lens of injury risk reduction is that it may lead to a risk-averse mentality in which one thinks they can protect the player by resting them. However, it is now clear that the decision to rest a player has potentially harmful consequences by restrict- ing a playerʼs exposure to important moderators of injury risk such as high speed running [23, 24] and a well-developed chronic train- ing exposure [11]. While it is an unwelcome truth, injury is inevita- ble in sport, a by-product of pushing players to their performance limits needed to be successful. Therefore, the approach of func- tional overreaching and strategic recovery periods to optimise per- formance presents a positive approach to monitoring rather than reducing injuries alone. Contextualising the Data in your Environment When interpreting athlete monitoring data, practitioners must weigh the potential positive and negative consequences of expos- ing an athlete to a training stimulus. Having collected, analysed, and interpreted the data, practitioners are required to add context to support their subsequent recommendations. When making these training decisions, “Content is king, but context is God” [25]. Both performance and injury are highly complex, so the context applied by a practitioner when balancing the risks and rewards as- sociated with each given training stimulus is vital [26]. ▶Fig. 2 pro- vides just a sample of the contextual considerations that inform athlete management. While training load contributes as a portion Feedback In-session adjustment Day-to-day planning Season planning Long-term use Does it change what we do tomorrow?Did this session meet our desired training targets relative to the match demands? How can we learn from this for the next session? Is the athlete responding as we might expect? Live feedback on player exposure and response Is the player hitting targeted physical threshold? Provides objective, quantifiable context to what we are observing subjectively, whether it is what we expected or not Can we progress this player along the return to play pathway? Push or pull? Allows us to decide whether an athlete needs to be pushed harder or pulled back. Has the athlete demonstrated he/she can progress to the next phase of rehab? Identify and target tactical and physical outcome for the day. May incorporate submaximal testing within session to measure progression and identify readiness to perform. Assess player response to previous load and inform decision-making process on risk/reward basis. Identify what stimuli and how much of those stimuli individual players and the team need to perform. Plan physical training to complement and support style of play and tactics of the coach. Planning the season should be based on a review of previous season. Prepare for sport-specific average and maximal competition demands. Identify periods of increased load or stress that may impact injury or performance outcomes. Understand the athlete profile season on season, building a history of training load. Managing an athlete’s progression from youth team into the senior team Use as an education tool with our athletes. Managing older players in the latter stages of their career ▶Fig. 1 Five overarching levels at which training load can inform athlete preparation and management. 1) Feedback, blue boxes; 2) in-session adjustment, green boxes; 3) day-to-day planning, orange boxes; 4) season planning, red boxes; 5) long-term use, pink boxes. Training load uses that span more than one category are represented by the split colour boxes. Thisdocumentwasdownloadedforpersonaluseonly.Unauthorizeddistributionisstrictlyprohibited.
  • 5. West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved. Review Thieme of the picture, its modifiability makes it a desirable target for ad- justment. Many of these are specific to match circumstances [27, 28] and are externally controlled (for example, venue and turn- around between games). Several refer to individual player charac- teristics and, therefore, depend on the practitioner’s knowledge of each player to inform the decision-making process. In many cases, it is not possible to objectively capture the entire context regularly, so practitioners must depend on their relationships with the athletes through regular communication. As these relation- ships develop, conversations become one of the most powerful ba- rometers for practitioners to gauge an athlete’s load tolerance and how this changes in response to other stressors. Considering the athlete’s career stage as one example, a youth player going through a developmental stage may require a more conservative loading strategy (especially during growth spurts), when compared with a first team player at the peak of his/her career. This simple example demonstrates the inability of training load to be “cookie-cut”, with each athlete needing individual attention to optimise their load. Interdepartmental collaboration is pivotal for effective informed decision-making. A challenge for sport scientists is distilling the most meaningful information to other key stakeholders, including the athletes themselves. Central to this process is that the message and communication is delivered in appropriate language and for- mat which can be understood by non-experts in the area. Challenges and Complicating Factors to the Load Monitoring Process Aside from the contextual factors that need to be considered when adapting an athlete’s training, there are several challenges for prac- titioners to overcome. These can be broadly classified into issues with data, monitoring restrictions, buy-in, working in lower partic- ipation sports, and managing expectations. Given the amount of data available to inform the decision-mak- ing process, a number of data-related issues are apparent in ath- lete monitoring. First and foremost, building trust in the data being collected is essential. Where feasible, the use of psychometric prin- ciples should be used to understand each technology’s limitations and its associated validity and reliability [12, 29]. Included in this is recognising the amount of error associated with a measure, to en- sure that changes in that measure represent true change and not simply error in collection. From a logistical perspective, data collection procedures are often hampered by available resources. For example, large squad sizes (e. g. ~90 players during an NFL preseason) make regular in- dividual measurements difficult. Given that external load measures can be collected with less effort from players (just wearing the de- vice), such external measures are often collected more frequently than internal load measures that place a larger burden on the ath- letes (e. g. wellness surveys, RPE). Furthermore, in sports where Starter vs substitute Turnaround since last game Position Scoreline Opposition Time in game Match factors Tactics Venue (Home/Away) Distance travelled Match importance Time between consecutive games Time zones crossed Access to facilities Early season Late season Off-season Time of year Training factors Team level Context Player level Physical Training microcycle Environment Weather Heat Altitude Humidity Surface type Personal protective equipment Coaching style Crowd Psychological Recent Long term Acute load Chronic load Change in load Characteristics Previous injury Injury history Social support Coping mechanisms Media pressure Sleep Mood Fatigue Current contract status Work ethic Player professionalism Risk-taking behaviours Style of play Player personality Quality Quantity Time since last injury To team performance To team moral Leadership Age Ethnicity Position Player experience Career stage Player importance Genetics Training macrocyle Match exposure Fitness levels Strength levels Training load status Nutrition HydrationRecent results Competition type Desired training outcomes for each training block Post-season/playoffs In-season Jet lag ▶Fig. 2 Contextual factors when managing athlete injury risk and readiness to perform. Boxes are colour-coded as to their degree of modifiability by the coaching/conditioning staff as a group. Green box indicates modifiable risk factor, orange indicates somewhat modifiable, and red box indi- cates non-modifiable. Training load is highlighted in a yellow box to demonstrate it is only part of the overall picture. Thisdocumentwasdownloadedforpersonaluseonly.Unauthorizeddistributionisstrictlyprohibited.
  • 6. West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved. players are based remotely or move in and out of teams (e. g. na- tional teams, farm teams), capturing load and aggregating the data can be difficult if there are sporadic periods of absenteeism, which leads to problems in maintaining normal monitoring practices [30]. Missing data may also occur when league rules ban wearable tech- nology use during matches, or mandate alternative technologies during competition. Athlete and coach ‘buy-in’ is one of the greatest challenges to athlete management. With respect to training load specifically, this is a major challenge in sports where tradition stigmatises athlete monitoring, with coaches adopting the tried and tested methods of observation. This may be especially prevalent in lower participa- tion sports where little research evidence exists. These environ- ments may learn from similar sports to support the need for invest- ment in the practice of athlete monitoring. Taking the research and practice from other sporting environments and critically apprais- ing the merits of this in the context of one’s own sport is an essen- tial skill for sport scientists and should be included in formal train- ing and continued professional development. Using technology in sport has become so commonplace that in many environments it is culturally accepted and expected of sport science staff. Sport scientists may be required to provide accurate, consistent and actionable insights daily. However, providing these insights becomes more challenging based on all the potential con- founders, contextual factors, and considerations associated with using load data. The lack of clear links between this data and either injury or performance has arguably led to a negative perception of training load management. From a causal perspective, another challenge is not knowing whether a decision influences an outcome – if a player is pulled from training due to a negative response to previous load, that player will not get injured. However, one will never know what would have happened if they had played. Con- versely, should the athlete play and he/she gets injured, the blame may be attributed to the practitioner for not picking up on the warning signs. This encourages risk-averse behaviour and may be limiting athletes’ ability to train and play. In “Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights” [31], Gary Klein outlines four common guidelines for de- cision support systems. These are: 1. The system should allow people to do their jobs better; 2. It should clearly display critical cues, the items of information that users rely on to do their jobs; 3. Filter out irrelevant data so the operators are not overwhelmed with meaningless messages; 4. The system should monitor progress toward their goals. Such guidelines could theoretically underpin a discussion about athlete monitoring systems. Klein outlines several challenges as- sociated with these guidelines, but sport scientists can clearly use these principles as a framework for their work. While these guide- lines best work when there is structure and order in the system, as is the case in elite sport, the outcomes are inherently disorderly and complex. Therefore, these guidelines should be re-visited reg- ularly to ensure they are still appropriate for the monitoring out- comes. Having a set of guidelines to frame athlete monitoring pro- cesses will help to mitigate some of the challenges described with- in this section and ensure realistic and achievable expectations. What Next for Training Load Monitoring? Training load monitoring is evolving rapidly and as technology im- proves it is important that we embrace new insights afforded by such data, while still providing concise and actionable feedback to key decision makers. Despite the progress made in recent years, a number of improvements are still required. In a recent paper, Kalk- hoven et al. [21] outlined the need for greater consideration for tis- sue specificity when considering injury risk, especially in the cases of stress, strain, and overuse injuries. They provide a conceptual model for athletic injury consisting of causal contextual factors, force application and distribution, structural load application, and tissue-specific stress and strain. Although this demonstrates the complexity of understanding injury risk, it is again important to frame athlete monitoring in the context of the type of injuries prac- titioners are trying to prevent. In practice, there are several improvements which could be made to the current methods of data collection and analysis [32, 33]. These range from new technology becoming available to improvements in data analysis and interpretation. Our ability to measure some aspects of external load remains limited, highly time-consuming, and often unreliable. Examples of this include the high levels of isometric external load in scrummaging by forwards in rugby, by linemen in American football, and in basketball when jostling for possession. In handball or volleyball, capturing arm swings or throws and the associated loads on the shoulder remains difficult but important. Furthermore, some sports do not allow wearable technology use during competition, meaning a signifi- cant portion of the external load experienced by the athlete can- not be captured. Therefore the idea of ‘invisible monitoring’, whereby loads may be evaluated while minimising athlete and prac- titioner burden, carries high potential. Examples of more ‘invisible monitoring’ include equipment with inbuilt instrumentation such as mouthguards or smart garments, or optical tracking solutions that do not require athletes to wear additional equipment or tech- nology [34]. Finally, new technologies may bring previously ‘siloed’ data streams together. For example, linking physical tracking data to event data provides valuable context compared to the physical data alone [35]. Conclusion Athlete monitoring is a vital tool in the modern-day sport scien- tists’ toolbox. While recent framing may have overemphasised a medicalised rationale for athlete monitoring, workloads can inform decision-making in diverse ways: from historical reviews of match and training demands, through daily real-time decision support, to proactive future planning. This informed decision-making pro- cess must consider the limitations with any data collected and its psychometric properties – including its theoretical relevance, va- lidity, reliability, and sensitivity. Ultimately, athletes play sport to perform, not avoid injury, so re-calibrating their focus from “predicting” injury and towards max- imising performance may help sport scientists’ improve player and coach buy-in. Currently, athlete monitoring stands between art and science, with practitioners working to contextualise load-re- lated data within the decision-making process. Both injury and per- Thisdocumentwasdownloadedforpersonaluseonly.Unauthorizeddistributionisstrictlyprohibited.
  • 7. West S et al. More than a Metric:.  Int J Sports Med | © 2020. Thieme. All rights reserved. Review Thieme formance are multifactorial and cannot be explained by any risk factor in isolation. It has been said that “prediction of the path of a hurricane is an imperfect science, but useful enough to guide crit- ical decisions and give estimates” [36]. In this vein, while training load management is highly complex and imperfect, it is an impor- tant piece of the puzzle to help guide decisions for maximising play- er performance, welfare, and team success. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank James Fern (@JamesFern83) for his editing assistance. Conflict of interest statement The authors have no conflicts of interest to report. This editorial meets the ethical standards of the journal as per Harris et al. [37]. References [1] Foster C, Rodriguez-Marroyo JA, de Koning JJ. Monitoring training loads: The past, the present and the future. 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