Preventing Injury By Supervising Strength Training
Article Date: 15 Oct 2009 – 0:00 PDT

Half of all Swedish elite volleyball players suffer at least one injury per season. One important reason may be that most players perform injury-preventing strength training unsupervised. This is shown in a new thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

All Swedish elite-level teams were invited to participate in the study, and 158 players returned the questionnaire that had been mailed out near the end of the volleyball season. The responses show that about half of the players had been injured at least once during the season. Almost everybody performed some kind of injury-prevention activity, but a majority did it without supervision. ‘This is surprising since it is well-known that the training is much more effective if a coach or a physiotherapist develops an individualized program and is present during the training sessions,’ says physiotherapist Sofia Augustsson, the author of the study.

The thesis also shows that supervised strength training makes the athletes perform much better than when exercising alone. Two groups of female volleyball players were given different exercise programs. One group received personalized programs that were performed under the supervision of a physiotherapist, while the members of the other group were given a standard program that was performed unsupervised. The former group improved their performance 50 percent more that the latter group. In addition, the proportion of injured players was smaller in the supervised group. ‘I have a feeling that more athletes really stick to the program and focus on the task if there is a coach present. Many players may feel that the strength and conditioning training is the boring part of their sport, which makes it tempting to "cheat" when nobody is watching,’ says Augustsson.

Thesis for the degree of Doctor of Medical Science at the Sahlgrenska Academy, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, section for occupational therapy and physiology

Title of the thesis: Strength training for physical performance and injury prevention in sports. Individualized and supervised training for female athletes.

Elin Lindström Claessen
University of Gothenburg