Once you’ve designed your elite player profile and completed the assessment process with your athletes, it’s time to use the data to drive your decision making. The priority should always be managing injury risk, and this data is extremely valuable to identify your high risk athletes.
These are athletes who performed below the minimum standard on a number of assessments, and should be managed differently than your athletes who performed above the minimum standard. I have created a risk profile below to give you a better idea of how I organize risk status for each athlete:
I created two scenarios below to give you some actionable items you can apply
Scenario 1: Women’s basketball, Athlete #1
Position: 5 (25-30 minutes each game)
Previous injury history: Right meniscal repair 10 months prior
Beep test (AIS version): 8-4
Body composition: 23%
Ankle Mobility (cm): L=20 R=22
Max lower body strength (trap bar deadlift 1 rep max): 175% of body weight
Time of year: Pre-season (five weeks before first game)
This player does not meet the minimum standards for body composition and aerobic capacity. It is also important to note her previous meniscal repair <12 months ago, which is the #1 predictor for a future injury. Her max lower body strength exceeds the minimum standard and probably doesn’t need to be prioritized in this situation. Just to be clear, this quality should not be neglected, it should still be developed but doesn’t need to be the primary focus for her, in my opinion. I would consider her a high risk athlete and below are some considerations for her risk management strategy:
Reduce full court and half court game play in practice and replace with cycling.
Add supplemental conditioning; cycling or a few 3-minute baseline to baseline runs post practice. Obviously her wellness questionnaire that morning and acute:chronic loads will influence this plan.
We would all agree that a metabolic stimulus with a basketball in her hand is preferred. This may be possible from an individual or small group basketball workout, which is common in NCAA and professional basketball. This is when the performance coach and basketball coaching staff need to have an integrated model, to deliver the finest quality of care to each player.
The performance coach should individualize training sessions with her to prioritize work capacity.
Hopefully someone can help manage her nutrition program as this will have a massive impact.
Scenario 2: Women’s basketball, Athlete #3
Position: 1 (5-8 minutes each game)
Previous injury history: No recent injuries
Beep test 3 months ago (AIS version): 11-5
Body composition: 14.8%
Ankle Mobility (cm): L=6 R=5
Max lower body strength (trap bar deadlift 1 rep max): 160% of body weight
Time of year: Half way through season
This player is not high risk, but it’s worth noting she is receiving a small amount of minutes in games. Her aerobic capacity measured in pre-season was good, and it’s important she doesn’t lose fitness (aerobic capacity) as the season progresses. She will most likely need to receive supplemental conditioning on game days (after the game) or the day after a game to avoid losing fitness. The worst case scenario would be if the starting point guard became injured and this player goes from 5-8 minutes each game to 25-30 minutes each game without the proper preparation. Her only red flag is her ankle mobility. This should be an easy fix with ankle mobility exercises, soft tissue techniques, and avoiding bracing and taping. Major plus if you have a physical therapist who is skilled in manual therapy and joint mobilization techniques.
The information collected from your assessment battery is only useful if it drives decision making to influence your load prescription. The traditional frame of thought is the performance coach has this information and makes necessary changes during training sessions with him/her. A more progressive and effective approach is building a high performance model where all members of the organization are integrated, have access to this information, and use it to appropriately load their athletes in a safe progressive manner to allow for optimal adaptations and manage injury risk.
Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Sam brings over ten years of expertise as an athletic performance coach with professional and NCAA athletes. Most recent positions include Assistant Sports Performance Coach with the University of Louisville Women’s Basketball Team and the Director of Performance for the Turkish Women’s National Basketball Team during the 2018 World Championships. Sam holds a Bachelors of Science degree from Keene State College in Physical Education and a Masters of Science degree in Exercise Science & Nutrition from Sacred Heart University. In addition to his degrees, Sam holds certifications from the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association and the National Strength & Conditioning Association, both gold standard governing bodies and mandated by the NCAA for all performance coaches. Sam is also a Certified Sports Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting and certified by the Functional Movement Screen. When not striving to keep his clients happy and healthy, Sam enjoys hiking, training, reading, traveling and drinking lots of coffee!