Overloading Senior and Juvenile Players

Workload spike

The club player.

Common sense is rarely practiced, therefore, I will use an analogy.

An 18-year-old starts drinking his first pint of beer at his 18th birthday party. Two pints and he is feeling tipsy and drunk, therefore, he stops knowing that any more will throw him over the edge. Two pints is not much, but he has never drunk before. The 18 year continues to drink every Friday for the next 6 months, slowly building himself up to six pints before he gets drunk. His tolerance to alcohol has improved. However, he now realises that he is drinking a little too much and decides to go cold turkey for three months. His best friend is having his birthday party later in the year, therefore, he decides that it would be rude not have a drink with his best friend on his 18th. He picks it up where he left off the last time and drinks six pints. He gets sick everywhere and has the worst hangover of his life the following morning. His tolerance to drink had gone because he hadn’t been drinking.

Now swap alcohol related words with training and restructure some sentences.

An 18-year-old starts training. One training session in one week and he is already feeling tired and sore, therefore, he stops, knowing that two sessions will cause his body too much pain. One training is not much but he has never trained before. The 18 year continues to train every week for the next six months slowly building himself up to 3 trainings per week before he gets exhausted. His tolerance to training has improved. However, he now realises that he is training a little too much and it is taking up too much time ahead of exams, thus, he decides to go cold turkey for three months. Exams finish and he picks up training where he left off the last time and trains three times in one week. He pulls his hamstring and feels like hell.


Start small and build up. When beginning a season start with small amounts and build up. Forcing players to overdo it in a weekend is the same as asking them to drink twice the amount they are used to. Therefore, don’t make them! A player wants nothing more than for a manager to understand the amount they have to do. They will play for a manager that has their interests at heart.

It is recommended that a coach never increases the amount of training by more than 10% every week. Any more and they are at risk of injury.

A spike in workload means it is the next 7 days where injury risk is highest.

When: A spike in workload happens in GAA teams every year. This means that the amount of workload players must complete in a weekend is 2-3 times more than they are accustomed to. This spike in workload has shown to double injury risk in athletes.

To put this in context.

Case 1:

This weekend minor players had county minor training on Friday night and a match with the U21 club team immediately after. On Saturday, they had another training with the U21 club team and a training again on Sunday morning with the minor county team. A total of three trainings and one match in three days. This is a clear case of overload with players completing double the workload they are used to. 

Case 2:

U21 match on Friday, senior league game on Saturday and U21 training on Sunday. Three days, two matches and a training. Considering that none of these players trained aerobically from Monday to Friday, again we see huge overload. Doubling the chances of injury.

Short term gains rather than long term gains

Every team wants their players at every training session and match. Playing two matches in two days is wrong and will injure your player. Therefore, one coach must take the hit and not allow the player to play. However, we rarely see this, each week no matter how un-important the game is, we see some coaches playing overloaded players just because they are stuck for numbers and want to win. They fail to realise that playing them will cause injury now and in the long term cause damage to their players’ development. They must also realise that their players may not be available for the games that really matter because they have injured them. Some coaches just look at injuries as part of the game, however many are preventable. Over 60% of the injuries in GAA are soft tissue non-contact injuries, meaning that most of these are due to tears and strains. This type of injury can occur due to overloading of players.

How to stop overloading of players

Allow players to only play one match per weekend. If necessary, one match on Friday and one on Sunday is allowed. Never two days in a row.

If playing with two teams in one weekend. Friday training with county can be difficult. Saturday training with club should be light. The manager must specifically say to the player to only take part in some light jogging and stretching, some tactical work and possibly a match at the end. The player does not need to take part in fitness drills or ball handling drills. They do this with county already! This allows the player to enjoy the session and will stop him avoiding training sessions with the club. Let the rest of the team train hard.


Gabbett, T.J., Hulin, B.T., Blanch, P. and Whiteley, R., 2016. High training workloads alone do not cause sports injuries: how you get there is the real issue. British journal of sports medicine, 50(8), pp.444-445.

Roe, M., Blake, C., Gissane, C. and Collins, K., 2016. Injury scheme claims in Gaelic games: a review of 2007-2014. Journal of athletic training, 51(4), pp.303-308.

Written by: Conor Bolton – 4th year Sport Science student and co-founder of