Background A thorough knowledge of the epidemiology of health problems in youth female elite sports is lacking, as most studies define health problems as time loss from participation.
Objective To prospective investigate the burden of health problems in young female elite athletes.
Design Descriptive epidemiology study.
Setting Participants were involved in the Dutch national high-performance program of the Centre for Top sport and Education Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Patients (or Participants) Sixty young elite Dutch female athletes (mean age 16.6; SD=2.3 years) participating in soccer (N=23), basketball (N=22) and gymnastic (N=15) were prospectively followed during one competitive season. All athletes completed the study.
Interventions (or Assessment of Risk Factors) During the pre-season period, age, height and body weight was recorded. To collect health problem data, all athletes were asked to complete the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center Questionnaire on Health Problems every other week during the entire season.
Main Outcome Measurements The prevalence and incidence density of all health problems was calculated. To calculate the relative impact of injuries between the various sporting groups, a cumulative severity score was calculated for each anatomical area.
Results At any given time 47.9% of the athletes had an injury (95% CI 43.6% to 52.6%). The average injury incidence density was 8.6 per 1000 hours of athlete exposure. The average number of reported injuries per athlete per season was significantly higher in soccer athletes (4.3±2.7) than in basketball athletes (2.6±2.0) (p=0.03). Injuries located at the knee in basketball and soccer and injuries located at the heel in the gymnastic squad had the highest impact on sports participation.
Conclusions The new injury methodology captured a more complete picture of the burden of health complaints in the athletes, in contrasts to what is found using standard surveillance methods.