The Importance of Change of Direction (COD) or Agility in Sport to reduced sports injury

The Importance of Change of Direction (COD) or Agility in Sport to reduced sports injury

A number of sports injuries occur due to insufficient or improper training that hasn’t targeted the necessary skills and requirements of that sport. Exercise Physiologists work with athletes, both amateur and elite, to help them target weak spots in their performance. Two of the key skills required for sports such as soccer, netball, hockey, and football is agility and change of direction.

What is the difference between agility and change of direction in sport?

  • Agility is defined as a rapid whole body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus.
  • Agility involves both a perceptual decision-making process and the outcome of this process, a change of direction or velocity.

For example, attacking player evading a close defender in soccer when dribbling the ball or dodging a defenders tackle in rugby league.

  • On the other hand, change of direction means there is movement with no reaction to a stimulus, therefore direction change is pre-planned.
  • The ability to change direction at speed in sport is an essential component of sport-related fitness in athletes.
  • Traditional strength and power training have been thought to develop a change of direction (COD) performance. However, studies have shown insignificant and inconsistent results correlating to strength and power training to COD performance. These studies used Olympic style lifts like squats, deadlifts, plyometrics and vertical jump.

However, training programmes reporting improvements in COD utilized exercises that replicate the demands of the sport, which include horizontal jump training, lateral jump training, loaded vertical jump training, sport-specific COD and general COD training. These training programs are often designed by an Exercise Physiologist in conjunction with coaches.

What are the common tests used to assess the change of direction? 

Illinois test

      • T-Test
      • 20 m agility test
      • 5-0-5 agility test
      • 3 Cone drills


What training studies have reported significant improvements in COD performance?

The studies that have reported improvements have performed either sport specific COD training or traditional COD training.

– Gabbett et al investigated the effects of a volleyball specific training programme on T-Test times in junior female players.
– Program included technical and instructional coaching, skill-based games to develop passing, setting, serving, spiking and blocking accuracy and technique.
– Program was for 8 weeks and significantly decreased T-Test times by -5.2%.
– Polman et al found similar results in elite female soccer players with specific COD training
– The sessions included soccer specific and traditional speed, COD and power exercises.
– At the end of the intervention, the study groups significantly improved COD performance in their selected agility test by -3.8% to -4.2%
– Another study by Gabbett et al investigated the effects of specific field training (including COD – exercises) in combination with a traditional strength and conditioning program on COD – performance in junior and senior level Rugby League players.
– The field training was performed twice per week for 14 weeks.
– General COD exercises were performed in the offseason and sport-specific COD exercises performed in the pre-season.
– After the 14-week program, the exercises significantly decreased COD times by -17.7% for the junior players and -16.2% for senior players.

If you want assistance with assessing your agility or ability to change direction for your sport and wanting a training program to improve this please speak to our Exercise Physiologist at Body Worx Physiotherapy for a personalised plan.

We offer Exercise Physiology services in Newcastle, Port Stephens, and the Hunter Valley.

Book in for your Free 5 Point Assessment online by clicking HERE.

Free 5 point assessment is free, there is no rebate or Medicare benefit chargeable, this offer is for both new and existing patients who have not seen our Exercise Physiologist, this session includes assessment and a report only. There is no prescription of treatment but you may be given the option to have a full paying session if you wish to at the completion.

Free Assessment Session Conditions: New patients only, not redeemable for cash, there is no rebate chargeable for this session. Session includes assessment and written treatment plan constructed by a physiotherapist and any referrals deemed necessary. Please state if you wish to book this type of session when talking to reception. During this session you may elect to receive treatment if time allows, if so the session will attract the standard physiotherapy rates and private health fund rebates may be claimable on this session. Your therapist will notify you of any charges before treatment commences if you elect to receive treatment.

Brughelli M, Cronin J, Levin G, and Chaouachi A. Understanding Change of Direction Ability in Sport. Sports Medicine 2008; 38 (12): 1045-1063

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