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Why football players get hurt during finals

College football players are more likely to get hurt during test weeks than during training camp, according to new research.

The effects of academic stress on injury occurrences are even more pronounced among starting players, the researchers find.

“Stress is systemic,” says Bryan Mann, an assistant professor of physical therapy in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions and assistant director of strength and conditioning for Mizzou Athletics.

“Everything players deal with on a daily basis creates stress. They don’t have separate accounts to withdraw from for practice, school, and relationships. Whenever there’s stress, something’s got to give. Otherwise, it’s similar to when unexpected expenses arise at the same time and you’re likely to overdraw your checking account. It’s the same idea but on a physiological basis rather than a monetary one.”

The researchers studied weekly injury reports for 101 student athletes on a Division 1 college football team during a 20-week season. Sixty different athletes had 86 injury restrictions during the season. The researchers found players were 3.19 times more likely to have an injury restriction during weeks when they had high academic stress, such as midterms or finals, than during weeks when they had low academic stress.

When the researchers compared players’ injury restrictions for weeks of high physical stress—such as training camp—and weeks of low academic stress, athletes were 2.84 times more likely to have injury restrictions.

“We know when there will be midterms or finals, and we can plan for these academic stressors and accommodate practices accordingly to minimize the risk of injuries,” Mann says. “Some stressors we can’t predict, but if we know about them, then there are things that we can do.

“Coaches should get to know the athletes and watch how their attitudes change. As attitudes change, it usually indicates that something else is going on in their lives. We’ve got to find those causes so we can be proactive and get the athletes counseling or find other ways to meet their needs.”

The study appears online ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Source: University of Missouri

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