INJURY RISK IS DIFFERENT BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE ATHLETES DURING 14 INTERNATIONAL ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Abstract

Background

During top-level international Athletics championships, injury risk was about 100 injuries per 1000 athletes for outdoor championships, and about 63 injuries per 1000 athletes for indoors championships. However, it is unclear whether male or female athletes differ in risk and/or characteristics of injuries.

Objective

To compare the incidences and characteristics of injuries that occurred during international Athletics championships between female and male athletes.

Design

Prospective study.

Setting

14 international athletics championships from 2007 to 2014; Elite athletics level.

Participants

A total of 17592 registered athletes.

Main Outcome Measurements

Incidences of all (time-loss) injuries in male and female athletes.

Results

The rate of injuries per 1000 registered athletes was significantly higher in male (110.3±6.8) than in female (88.5±6.7) athletes (relative risk (RR)=1.25; 95% CI:1.13–1.37, small effect size). Male athletes incurred significantly more injuries in the thigh (RR=1.64; 95% CI:1.32–2.05, small), lower leg (RR=1.36; 95% CI:1.05–1.75, small) and hip/groin injuries (RR=2.26; 95% CI:1.31–3.88, moderate), more muscle strains (RR=1.64; 95% CI:1.33–2.04, small), cramps (RR=1.81; 95% CI:1.35–2.43, small), and especially more thigh strains (RR=1.66; 95% CI:1.25–2.19, small), but fewer stress fractures (RR=0.32; 95% CI:0.12–0.81, moderate) than female athletes. A higher injury risk of male than of female athletes was observed in sprints (RR=1.32; 95% CI:1.06–1.66, small), middle distance runs (RR=1.48; 95% CI:1.06–2.06, small), race walks (RR=2.55; 95% CI:1.27–5.10, moderate), and jumps (RR=2.13; 95% CI:1.53–2.97, moderate). No sex difference was found for cause and severity of injury.

Conclusions

During 14 top-level international Athletics championships, male athletes had higher risk of injuries than female athletes. Moreover, injury incidences differed between sexes for location, type, and discipline. Males suffered more thigh strains than female athletes. Prevention strategies will likely need to take sex into account and where appropriate, be adapted to the differences in injury characteristics between female and male athletes.

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