Navigating Through the Right Sport Science with Franco Impellizzeri

A Conversation: Freelap Friday Five with Franco Impellizzeri – Published on the SimpliFaster website

Sport Science Soccer

Franco M. Impellizzeri works at the Human Performance Research Centre, Faculty of Health, University of Technology, Sydney. He has authored about 150 publications in peer-reviewed and indexed journals in the area of sport science and orthopedics. He started his career as a coach before becoming head of research at the MAPEI Sport Research Centre (Italy), where he took care of the training and testing of elite and top professional-level athletes. Professor Impellizzeri has also worked in the clinical setting (head of the Lower Limb Clinical Outcome Unit) as a senior research fellow at the Schulthess Clinic (Zurich), developing his research in the area of clinimetrics (patient-reported outcomes).

Freelap USA: You have been outspoken about the limitations of the ACWR (acute: chronic workload ratio) for some time now, and it seems that some want to keep the metric alive because they don’t know an alternative. Is it safe to say that we need multiple data points to make smart decisions? It looks like the convenience of a daily number is removing the thinking process of monitoring.

Franco Impellizzeri: I have tried to advise others about the flaws of this metric for three main reasons: 1) the scientific process used to arrive at this “model” and this new metric is methodologically and conceptually wrong; 2) it is an oversimplification of a complex problem (injury) that cannot be addressed and reduced to a few metrics; and 3) the “practical applications” are unreasonable unless you interpret them in such a liberal way that the recommendations are no longer based on the study’s results but common sense (which means the studies are worthless). I am going to write more formally about these issues soon (and other researchers I know are doing the same), so I don’t want to use the space here to discuss this.

But I believe that the main reason why practitioners jumped on this metric, and more generically on this approach (metric-based), is that we don’t like to live with too many uncertainties and face this “interior conflict.” We have created the illusion we can in some way control “injuries,” which is now also the main reason people are sacked (or recruited) in professional teams. It is an illusion because, scientifically speaking, we still don’t have prognostic factors strongly associated with the risk of injuries, and even more so in terms of etiology and causal relations. There are studies and opinion pieces reminding us that association is not a prediction. But we should also remember that association is not causation.

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