A prospective cohort study of load and wellness (sleep, fatigue, soreness, stress, and mood) in elite junior Australian Football players
Purpose: To investigate associations between load (training and competition) and wellness in elite junior Australian Football players across 1 competitive season. Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted during the 2014 playing season in 562 players from 9 teams. Players recorded their training and match intensities according to the session-rating-of-perceived-exertion (sRPE) method. Based on sRPE player loads, a number of load variables were quantified, including cumulative load and the change in load across different periods of time (including the acute-to-chronic load ratio). Wellness was quantified using a wellness index including sleep, fatigue, soreness, stress, and mood on a Likert scale from 1 to 5. Results: Players spent an average of 85 (21) min in each match and 65 (31) min per training session. Average match loads were 637 (232) arbitrary units, and average training loads were 352 (233) arbitrary units. Over the 24 wk of the 2014 season, overall wellness had a significant linear negative association with 1-wk load (B = −0.152; 95% confidence interval, −0.261 to −0.043; P = .006) and an inverse U-curve relationship with session load (B = −0.078; 95% confidence interval, 0.143 to 0.014; P = .018). Mood, stress, and soreness were all found to have associations with load. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that load (within a session and across the week) is important in managing the wellness of elite junior Australian Football players. Quantifying loads and wellness at this level will help optimize player management and has the potential to reduce the risk of adverse events such as injury.