Colin Jackson’s intervention last week that Britain’s 2012 gold medal prospects were not encouraging touched that ever-raw nerve of the British press, the anticipation of failure.

Accompanying Jackson’s comments were reports that British athletes are more prone to injury than overseas competitors. Overtraining leading to exhaustion creates injury. Is there a chronic problem of overtraining in British athletics?

Jackson’s new protege, Tim Benjamin, reportedly throws up during intense track sessions, a sharp contrast to his previous training regime, which presumably Jackson feels was insufficiently rigorous. There is an interesting exchange among some serious athlete/coaching types on the BBC website following reporting in December of Benjamin’s complaints about his tough new workouts.

Benjamin, perhaps like Jonny Wilkinson, is injury-prone. Could it be that the core strength of younger athletes, because of modern diets and more confined childhoods (less running around because of road safety issues to say nothing of the decline of competitive sport in schools), means training methods or coaching expectations inherited from an earlier generation of athletes and coaches are trying to build on too weak a base?

Recovery-based methods would seem to be all the more valuable for what might now be a much more variable population of athletes in terms of underlying health and immune strength. But that means coaches must be open to the input of sports scientists over their own experience. Without making any judgements about Jackson, who is doubtless one of the greatest athletes of all time, is it possible that the more successful athletes are less likely to be open to newer coaching ideas?

Wilkinson’s recall to the English rugby side this week seems premature, given that he has only just returned to club rugby. On the face of it, this is a safe decision for the coach, but from a managerial perspective it looks sub-optimal. Given Wilkinson’s past susceptability to injury, a pause before returning to international play (which must be tougher than club rugby) would seem wise.

The athlete is never going to demur at the international call-up. Is the short-term gain worth the risk?

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