Preseason body composition is associated with in-season player availability in elite male Australian footballers
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
National Strength and Conditioning Association
School of Medical and Health Sciences
The purpose of this study was to examine whether end of preseason body composition characteristics was associated with in-season match availability and injury. Sixty (n = 60) elite Australian football players had body composition characteristics assessed using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry across 3 seasons (2016, 2018, and 2021). Match availability and injury were recorded throughout each season. Pearson’s correlations were calculated to assess the associations between body composition and in-season match availability and injury. Logistic regression models were used to assess the odds of missing games as a result of injury throughout a season. Regional lean soft tissue mass asymmetry and its relationship to injury and availability was explored. Statistical significance was set at p ≤ 0.05. Body composition characteristics expressed as relative values seemed to be more highly associated with in-season availability and injury than characteristics expressed as absolute values. Players with lower relative fat mass (FM) ( < 12.1 % total body FM) were available for 89.7 % of in-season matches compared with 80.7 % for players with higher relative FM ( > 12.1 % total body FM). Subsequently, players with higher relative FM had 3.3 – 3.5 times greater odds of missing one game to injury (odds ratio [OR] = 3.33; 95 % confidence interval [CI] = 1.00 – 11.14; p ≤ 0.05) and missing 2 or more games to injury (OR = 3.50; 95 % CI = 1.20 – 10.20; p ≤ 0.05) throughout a season compared with players with lower relative FM. Higher proportions of fat mass may accelerate the onset of fatigue and place players at a greater risk of injury. Reducing players' FM across the preseason phase should be a key aim for practitioners to reduce the odds of injury throughout the competitive season.