The Drawbacks of Increasing Season Length to “Reduce Injury” from Professional to High School Sports

What’s your favorite Ohio sports team?


Photo by Dana Lewin on Unsplash

The Buckeyes.  Browns.  Bengals.

Blue Jackets.  Cavaliers.  Columbus Crew.  FC Cincinnati.  Indians.  Reds…


All these teams play in leagues where congested match schedules, season length and travel can negatively impact performance and potentially increase injury risk.

Photo by ÁLVARO MENDOZA on Unsplash

Let’s look at the challenges the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati face playing in Major League soccer.

Major League Soccer

  • MLS has aggressively expanded from 10 teams in 1996 to 23 teams in 2018.1


  • So, what has Major League Soccer done to the season schedule to accommodate so many teams?

  • In order to accommodate more teams, Major League Soccer has lengthened the season. 1
  • The number of games played during regular season has not changed dramatically since 1996, however some teams experience congested weeks of the season due to regular season games and tournament or friendly games being scheduled in the same week. 1
  • Research shows increased injury rates with congested schedules and longer seasons.2
  • Although a longer season may help increase the amount of rest between games in a season, this has potential to limit the amount of off season time and shorten the amount of time for an adequate preseason. 1
  • Learn more and read the full article from Physical Therapy in Sport by clicking here. 1



Let’s look at the challenges the Reds and the Indians face.

Major League Baseball

  • MLB has 30 teams across the United States with 162 games played from March to October.
  • The United States is one of the largest countries in the world forcing teams to travel long distances to play other teams.
  • Traveling across time zones can result in detriments to performance and a team’s record.3
  • Teams traveling from the eastern time zone to play a team on the west coast tend to have suboptimal performances, likely due to east coast teams playing closer to their normal bed times.4
  • In MLB, teams who had an advantage in regard to time zones had a higher winning percentage. 4

Photo by Keith Johnston on Unsplash


What challenges do the Browns and Bengals face?


National Football League

  • One potential issue with the NFL is the lack of recovery time for teams that have to play on Thursday Night Football.
  • Some teams have to play Sunday afternoon and then again Thursday evening giving players only three full days of rest.5
  • Although the NFL cites that injury rates are lower on Thursdays than other game days, it’s unknown if playing with less recovery effects player performance or effects the results of games thereafter.6
  • More research is needed on the effects of Thursday Night Football.


Photo by Andy Hall on Unsplash


How about the Blue Jackets?

National Hockey League

  • The NHL season typically starts in September/October and finishes in April, with each team playing approximately 82 games.
  • NHL has many of the same challenges as other leagues (congested weekly schedule, long season, etc), but the sport requires increased physicality.7


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


How about the Cavaliers?

National Basketball League

  • The commissioner of the NBA has criticized many teams for benching star players during congested times in the season.
  • However, back to back games (3-4 games in five days) was predictive of injury during the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 NBA seasons.8
  • Although the commissioner’s concern about fan experience are valid, occasionally resting star players may be a good strategy for teams to avoid injury during congested times in the season.


Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash


What about sports that hit a little closer to home, like high school baseball?

Ohio High School Baseball

  • Compared to surrounding states, Ohio had the shortest length of season to play the permitted number of contests and the earliest State
  • Ohio: *42 Days to play 27 games – this has changed for 2019 to include an extra week of play
  • Indiana: 59 Days to play 28 games
  • Kentucky: 74 days to play 36 games
  • Michigan: 69 days to play 38 games
  • Pennsylvania: 72 days to play 20 games


  • The concept of providing more rest time between games allows for the coaches to have more options to allow for rest between games and adhere to the recently imposed pitch count rules, but what happens if practice time is increased and the players spend more time throwing and playing?


  • The OHSAA has been tracking pitch counts for 2 years now on a voluntary basis, so more enforcement of tracking pitches and also injuries with the new season extension would be of great interest to researchers across the country.


So, in the end what can we make of these season extensions and additional games?  Sports is a business at many levels, but the idea of increasing injury potential or reducing performance levels needs to be strongly considered in light of revenue generation.

Another consideration is maybe sports will completely change and everyone will be playing League of Legends or NBA2K or some other esports game and watch their favorite athletes play continuously.  Of course, esport athletes are the next generation of high level performers that needs investigation.

Gotta run, time to get back to the lab and look at how we can help high level performers optimize and sustain performance daily and throughout their lifetimes.


Post Credit:

Cody Mansfield and James Onate

MOvES Lab Team



1 Mansfield CJ, Ferkovic-Mack C, Eibensteiner J, Zwolski C. A review advocating caution with major league soccer expansion and investment in more rehabilitation professionals. Physical Therapy in Sport. 2018 May 9.

2Dupont G, Nedelec M, McCall A, McCormack D, Berthoin S, Wisløff U. Effect of 2 soccer matches in a week on physical performance and injury rate. The American journal of sports medicine. 2010 Sep;38(9):1752-8.

3Leatherwood WE, Dragoo JL. Effect of airline travel on performance: a review of the literature. Br J Sports Med. 2012 Nov 1:bjsports-2012.

4Winter WC, Hammond WR, Green NH, Zhang Z, Bliwise DL. Measuring circadian advantage in Major League Baseball: a 10-year retrospective study. International journal of sports physiology and performance. 2009 Sep;4(3):394-401.

5Simmons, B. (2012). A hierarchy of hypocrites. Grantland.

6Florio, M. (2016). What does the future hold for Thursday night Football?. Pro-FootballTalk. NBC sports.

7Kneeland AT. Man Games Lost in the NHL: A Correlation between Travel, Rest Periods and Injuries in the National Hockey League.

8Teramoto M, Cross CL, Cushman DM, Maak TG, Petron DJ, Willick SE. Game injuries in relation to game schedules in the National Basketball Association. Journal of science and medicine in sport. 2017 Mar 1;20(3):230-5.



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