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Athlete availability and incidence of overuse injuries over an athletics season in a cohort of elite Swedish athletics athletes - A prospective study

Journal article
Authors Andreas Lundberg Zachrisson
Andreas Ivarsson
Pia Desai
Jon Karlsson
Stefan Grau
Published in Injury Epidemiology
Volume 7
Issue 1
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Orthopaedics
Language en
Keywords Athlete availability, Elite athletes, Elite athletics, Incidence rate, Overuse injuries
Subject categories Sport and Fitness Sciences


© 2020 The Author(s). Background: Athletics is a sport with a high incidence of injury, where most injuries are caused by overuse. Research on injury incidence and the occurrence of overuse injuries during a season in athletics is scarce. An athlete availability (unrestricted ability to participate in training or competition) of less than 80% has been linked with athletes being less likely to reach their performance goals. The purpose of this study was to estimate the monthly injury incidence rates, athlete availability, and the overuse injury incidence rate per 1000 athletics-hours of training in a cohort of Swedish elite athletics athletes. Methods: The cohort consisted of 59 male and female elite athletes competing in either middle or long-distance running, sprint, or jumping events. Injury and training data were collected during one athletics season, from October to the end of August. All injury data were collected by medical professionals. Training data were collected monthly, and consisted of event-specific training diaries covering training sessions, training days, and non-training or non-competition days. Monthly injury incidence rates were based on the number of new injuries per month in relation to the number of exposed (injury-free) athletes. Results: The overall injury incidence rate for all athletes was highest in October (22.0%). Monthly injury incidence rate for middle and long-distance runners was highest in October (26.1%), for sprinters in April (19.0%), and for jumpers in October (21.4%). The overall athlete availability was 78.0% for the cohort. Sprinters had the lowest athlete availability (71.4%), followed by jumpers (77.3%), and middle-distance and long-distance runners (82.7%). Female athletes (76.5%) had a lower athlete availability than male athletes (79.7%). The injury incidence rate was 1.81 injuries per 1000 athletics hours of training. Middle and long-distance runners had the highest injury incidence rate (2.38), followed by jumpers (1.62), and sprinters (1.34). Conclusion: Monthly injury incidence rates during a season appears to correspond to periods of high training volume (conditioning phases and training camps). The low overall athlete availability (> 80%) indicates that many Swedish elite athletes are less likely to reach their full potential.

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