With the winter break just a couple of weeks away, new research from chartered physiotherapist Huw Rees says this is a key phase for Irish hockey clubs to manage after a spate of injuries last spring.
In January 2018, there were calls for the introduction of a break after a glut of top-line matches were frozen out in December and January.
Hockey Ireland duly implemented an eight-week stop for the elite outdoor competition, the EY Hockey League, for the 2018/19 season.
Rees – as part of his doctorate in Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sport Science – duly took on the task of studying the impact of the change.
Analysing 188 players who took part in the EYHL, he said, overall, there was a “nice decrease” in injury rates over the whole season comparing 2017/18 to 2018/19.
But it also revealed a “huge spike” in injuries in the weeks following the return to action for the second half of the season.
The potential reasons for the jump highlight issues for administrators, clubs, coaches and athletes to ensure take advantage of the break.
No extension of the season’s end date meant more matches were lumped into shorter bursts, leading to fatigue and over-use injuries.
It also points to clubs not being either equipped or educated to cope with the change in structure.
Some players reported they simply took “time-off” rather than treating it as another pre-season phase.
Hockey Ireland High Performance Director Adam Grainger said the data is hugely beneficial but also stressed it is up to clubs to analyse the information to protect their players, too.
On the field, Cork C of I face Avoca at Garryduff in the EYHL Division 2 on Saturday (2.30pm) looking to continue their 100% record on all fronts.
Promotion back to the top tier via this competition is the primary target this term.
C of I are the only side with two wins from two from either group and a victory over the Dubliners would give them, at least, a five-point buffer in the playoff places from the four-team group.
Part of the rejuvenation has been the addition of Eoin Finnegan (from UCC) and Rob Sweetnam (Bandon) who have provided a heavy volume of goals.
Avoca are an erratic outfit but do score a lot, too, with Richard Couse netting 16 times in Leinster already, giving them the capacity to cause plenty of problems.
Cork Harlequins, meanwhile, welcome Cookstown in Pool B at Farmers’ Cross (1.10pm) with the winner assured of top spot at the halfway stage.
In the women’s EYHL, the two Munster sides are on the road. Harlequins are at draw-masters Muckross with both clubs eyeing their first win of the season.
It will be a big test for Emma Barber, Sarah Murphy and Enya O’Donoghue who have been excellent in defence to date as they bid to tame Irish record goalscorer Anna O’Flanagan.
Catholic Institute are also Dublin-bound, travelling to Railway Union with both sides taking four points from their first four games.