Hypermobility in Adolescent Athletes: Pain, Functional Ability, Quality of Life, and Musculoskeletal Injuries

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Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:

Cross-sectional.

BACKGROUND:

Generalized joint hypermobility (GJH) may increase pain and likelihood of injuries and also decrease function and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in elite-level adolescent athletes.

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the prevalence of GJH in elite-level adolescent athletes, and to study the association of GJH with pain, function, HRQoL, and musculoskeletal injuries.

METHODS:

A total of 132 elite-level adolescent athletes (36 adolescent boys, 96 adolescent girls; mean ± SD age, 14.0 ± 0.9 years), including ballet dancers (n = 22), TeamGym gymnasts (n = 57), and team handball players (n = 53), participated in the study. Generalized joint hypermobility was classified by Beighton score as GJH4 (4/9 or greater), GJH5 (5/9 or greater), and GJH6 (6/9 or greater). Function of the lower extremity, musculoskeletal injuries, and HRQoL were assessed with self-reported questionnaires, and part of physical performance was assessed by 4 postural-sway tests and 2 single-legged hop-for-distance tests.

RESULTS:

Overall prevalence rates for GJH4, GJH5, and GJH6 were 27.3%, 15.9%, and 6.8%, respectively, with a higher prevalence of GJH4 in ballet dancers (68.2%) and TeamGym gymnasts (24.6%) than in team handball players (13.2%). There was no significant difference in lower extremity function, injury prevalence and related factors (exacerbation, recurrence, and absence from training), HRQoL, or lengths of hop tests for those with and without GJH. However, the GJH group had significantly larger center-of-pressure path length across sway tests.

CONCLUSION:

For ballet dancers and TeamGym gymnasts, the prevalence of GJH4 was higher than that of team handball players. For ballet dancers, the prevalence of GJH5 and GJH6 was higher than that of team handball players and the general adolescent population. The GJH group demonstrated larger sway in the balance tests, which, in the current cross-sectional study, did not have an association with injuries or HRQoL. However, the risk of having (ankle) injuries due to larger sway for the GJH group must be studied in future longitudinal studies.

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