JAT Study Shows Overuse Injuries Make Up One-Quarter of all Athletic Injuries at the Collegiate Level

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
DALLAS, March 30, 2012 –A new study published in the April 2012 Journal of Athletic Training, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) scientific publication, reveals that more than one-quarter of all injuries sustained by collegiate athletes were overuse injuries and a majority (62 percent) of all of overuse injuries occurred in female athletes. Overuse injuries were found most often in low-contact sports that involve long training sessions or in which the same movement is repeated numerous times, such as long-distance running, rowing and swimming. The study sample consisted of male and female collegiate athletes from one NCAA Division I institution (University of Iowa).
March 2012 is National Athletic Training Month and this year’s theme is “Athletic Trainers Save Lives.”
“Overuse injuries may present not only physical challenges, but also psychological ones that could significantly affect an athlete’s recovery and performance,” said Tracey Covassin, PhD, ATC, a co-author of the report. “Understanding the frequency, rate and severity of overuse injuries is an important first step for designing effective injury prevention programs, intervention strategies and treatment protocols to prevent and rehabilitate athletes with these types of injuries.”
According to “Epidemiology of Overuse and Acute Injuries among Competitive Collegiate Athletes,” overuse injuries tend to occur gradually and are caused by repeated small injuries, without a single, identifiable event responsible for the injury. By comparison, injuries occurring in high-speed and full-body-contact sports are more likely to be acute injuries, which result from a specific and identifiable event. The most common overuse injuries were general stress (27 percent), inflammation (21 percent) and tendinitis (16 percent).
The long-term consequences of overuse injuries include loss of playing time, reduced function and psychological exhaustion. Overuse injuries are also associated with a gradual increase in symptoms, which means athletes may go undiagnosed and untreated for longer periods of time leading to long-term residual symptoms and chronic health consequences, including deformities and arthritis.
The athletes in the study participated in 16 team sports. Researchers compiled injury and athlete-exposure data over a three-year period (August 2005 to July 2008). A total of 573 injured athletes reported 1,317 injuries during that time, with 288 athletes (50.2 percent) reporting more than one injury. Of all injuries included, 386 (29.3 percent) were overuse injuries and 931 (70.7 percent) were acute. A total of 319 male athletes sustained 705 injuries, and 254 female athletes sustained 612 injuries.
The study found no difference between male and female athletes in the types of overuse injuries exhibited in 10 gender-comparable sports; however, the gender discrepancy in the severity of those injuries was particularly large for overuse injuries: among the 16 sports studied, the proportion of major overuse injuries incurred by men (46 percent) was twice that of women (23 percent).
Wrestling, football, women’s soccer and other contact sports were associated with a higher acute injury risk; while overuse injuries were found more frequently in rowing, softball, volleyball, cross-country, track and field and other low-contact sports. The study noted that four women’s sports – field hockey, soccer, softball, and volleyball – had the highest rates of overuse-injury rates. “Better strategies for the prevention and early intervention of overuse injuries in all sports and for both sexes are imperative in order to reduce their number and severity,” Covassin said.