Decelerate to vaccinate: putting the brakes on sports injury

Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey sprints 97 yards for a touchdown on a second quarter kickoff return against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2022 Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Paper Title: Deceleration Training in Team Sports: Another Potential ‘Vaccine’ for Sports-Related Injury

Publication: Sports Med

Publication date: October 2021


Sprinting improves performance and reduces the risk of injury. Deceleration precedes a change of direction (COD) and reduces momentum when slowing down while running. High-intensity deceleration occurs more often than acceleration in team sports, such as football, hockey, rugby, and soccer. At the same time, deceleration training involves high-impact braking ground reaction forces that predispose the lower limb to tissue damage, loss of stiffness, and neuromuscular fatigue. In addition, athletes require coping strategies to handle the high-intensity deceleration demands of matches and training. Therefore, deceleration training may provide clinicians with an alternative strategy to reduce injury risk.


This narrative review provides a background for deceleration training to improve performance and reduce injury. In addition, the authors investigated theoretical frameworks to develop deceleration training methods.


High-intensity horizontal decelerations are performed frequently in team sport match play and possess unique biomechanical and physiological characteristics.

Deceleration PropertiesInjury ConsiderationPerformance Consideration
Deceleration increases the:

1. Magnitudes of horizontal braking impulse in foot
2. Impact peak force and loading rates
3. Joint angular velocity
1. Increase musculoskeletal loading
2. Eccentric power absorption in the lower body
Helps in force application for re-acceleration into a new direction
Eccentric training forces are greater than those in concentric or isometric trainingIncreased force leads to muscle damage and greater neuromuscular and mechanical fatigueIncreased mechanical & metabolic efficiency
Increased quadriceps and greater relative hamstring activationReducing the risk of anterior displacement of the tibia ultimately reduces the risk of ACL injuryIncrease braking force
Increased pre-impact muscle activation and mechanical buffering capacity of the tendonReduce the rate of active muscle fascicle lengthening and eccentric force inputs Increased ability to generate and attenuate intense braking forces
Increase sarcomeres in series and tissue toleranceReduce the adverse effects of muscle damage and neuromuscular fatigueIncreased expression of force-velocity characteristics


Team sport requires athletes to develop robust musculoskeletal capacity and adapt to high-intensity horizontal deceleration. Clinicians should carefully monitor athletes’ deceleration training load, assess compensatory movement strategies, and formulate acceleration-deceleration profiles to maximize performance and reduce injury risk. The use of high-speed cameras, radar technology, and satellite tracking systems may improve evaluation and monitoring during deceleration training. Future research needs to investigate the optimal deceleration training dose.

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