Why we need to change NIU…

A series of articles that highlights problems and possible solutions for the NIU activities.

According to the Swedish Football Association (2019), up to 1,400 young people make their upper secondary school studies at a gymnasium with a specialization in National Sports Education (NIU) football in the country each year.

The possibility of combining studies with an engagement in football can in many cases be positive.

• There is a connection between physical activity and study results (Grape and Winterlind 2017, 13)

• A certain amount of intentional training in sports is required to become really good. (Brooke N. Macnamara, David Z. Hambrick and Frederick L. Oswald. 2014, 8)

These positive factors are widely communicated, but rarely problematised, which unfortunately does not allow for development. So let me problematize the activity to find areas for improvement and thereby raise the bar for the NIU activities.

Part 1 – The injuries

In this first part, I look more closely at the reports of a large number of injuries to national sports academies or RIG (Heijne, von Rosen, 2017). The report I refer to is thus made on RIG and not NIU.

But the similarities between the different approaches are greater than the differences: According to Riksidrottsförbundet (2017), the subject specialidrott is read in the two approaches up to 700p. What distinguishes, is that RIG has national recruitment and a requirement for greater social care.

”About 75 percent reported that they were seriously injured at least one occasion during the year.”
– Heijne and von Rosen (2017)

The report by Heijne and von Rosen (2017) states that:
• On average, 30 percent of the students are injured every week.
• Almost everyone was injured at least one occasion in a year.
• About 75 percent reported that they were seriously injured at least one occasion during the year.
• Most injuries were located in the knees and feet.

The serious injuries had the most serious consequences for continued sports participation, that is, difficulties in participating in training and competition for a long time, says Heijne and von Rosen (2017). Potential injuries keep players away from the specific activity and thus also the development of their performance. According to Macnamara, Hambrick and Oswald (2014), training amounts to 18% of the athletic performance.

Apart from the fact that the injuries kept the individuals away from their development, Heijne and von Rosen (2017) mean that the injuries meant that some of the young people also began to question whether elite sports were something that suited them and considered ending sports. So what is it that increases the risk of damage to RIG and thus also to NIU?

The relationship between exercise, diet, rest / sleep
According to the report from Heijne and von Rosen (2017), it turned out that an increased training volume, exercise intensity and simultaneous reduction of sleep led to a doubling of the risk of injury.

This link between training and recovery takes Andersén et al. (2015, 134) up in the Swedish Football Association’s coaching training UEFA B. All training breaks down the body and the higher the load, the longer the recovery is required for the player to adapt to the training. If a player is exercising and playing too often or with a high load, so that the body cannot recover, the consequence is that the player gets a negative performance development and the risk of injury or illness increases.

”An acute:chronic workload ratio (ACWR) >2 is associated with 5–7 times the risk of a soft tissue injury than players whose ACWR is below this”

– Bowen et al. (2019)

By satisfying the body’s need for rest, food and fluid, the player recovers faster, says Andersén et al. (2015, 134).

Bengtsson et al (2019) recommends that a 15-19 year old should work out 1-7 times a week and perform 1.5 matches per week this including school training and other sports. Since NIU offers three football training sessions per week, this means that players go from training and match 4-5 times a week to 7-8 times per week.

This is an increase of 60-75% of the training volume. Usually, the increase occurs for only one week and as best during one or a few months. Such an acute increase in exercise volume is consistent with a high risk of injury. The injury risk can even be as large as 5-7 times as high according to Bowen et al. (2019)

Reduction of sleep
According to Heijne and von Rosen (2017) another risk factor for the increase in injuries is reduction of sleep.

During sleep, the body recovers and processes the impressions one has received during the day. For children and young people who grow, sleep is of great importance as growth hormone is then formed (1177
vårdguiden, 2018)

A disturbance in sleep can lead to growth hormone imbalance. Growth hormone affects children and adolescents’ growth and development. In addition to the imbalance of growth hormone, a disturbance of sleep also
affects young people’s thinking, emotional balance and behavior, learning, social relations and health according to Carpenter (2001)

The average youth needs between 8-10 hours of sleep per night to function normally, Breus said (2017). If you count the hours, it would be difficult for a number of young people to reach these hours.

The training during a NIU is usually during the morning hours between 07.30-09.00. If the youth had a session the night before, it would usually stop around 19.00 or 20.30 o’clock. This means that the youth has 11-12 hours for the shower, transport home, evening meal / dinner, possible homework, sleep for 8-10 hours, jump into clothes, breakfast and transport to the football field. Although the youth do not have the training the night before, Breus (2017) mean that young people shift to a later ”sleep-wake cycle”. This means that they generally find it more difficult to rest for sleep. This means that this is an equation that does not coincide. Something that Heijne and von Rosen (2017) set out in their article.

“A large proportion also sleeps too little. In total, 19 percent of young people slept less than eight hours a night during weekdays, which should be regarded as insufficient sleep ”.

If the youth only gets five hours of sleep, they become progressively more tired. In addition, one can accumulate lack of sleep and which is called ”sleep debt” (Richter, 2015). This reinforces the youth’s late ”sleep-wake cycle”, says Breus (2017). This enhancement makes the youth settle down later and sleeps for less hours. Heijne and von Rosen (2017) argue that a reduction in sleep increases the risk of injury.

”It is only when damage prevention initiatives have been implemented that many of the young people will seriously have the opportunity to live up to the goals of the national sports academies – to reach the highest international elite”.
– Heijne och von Rosen (2017)

Read the full Part 1 article HERE including proposals of soultion!

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