Background Injury incidence has been reported for international athletics championships from 2007 to 2012. 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.
Methods The national medical team and the local organising committee physicians reported all injuries daily on a standardised injury report form during 14 international championships from 2007 to 2014. Relative risks (RR) of injury, 95% CI and magnitude thresholds were calculated.
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 (RR=1.25; 95% CI 1.13 to 1.37, small effect size). Male athletes incurred significantly more injuries in the thigh (RR=1.64; 95% CI 1.32 to 2.05, small), lower leg (RR=1.36; 95% CI 1.05 to 1.75, small) and hip/groin injuries (RR=2.26; 95% CI 1.31 to 3.88, moderate), more muscle strains (RR=1.64; 95% CI 1.33 to 2.04, small), cramps (RR=1.81; 95% CI 1.35 to 2.43, small), and especially more thigh strains (RR=1.66; 95% CI 1.25 to 2.19, small), but fewer stress fractures (RR=0.32; 95% CI 0.12 to 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 to 1.66, small), middle distance runs (RR=1.48; 95% CI 1.06 to 2.06, small), race walks (RR=2.55; 95% CI 1.27 to 5.10, moderate) and jumps (RR=2.13; 95% CI 1.53 to 2.97, moderate). No sex difference was found for cause and severity of injury.
Conclusions Injury risk during international athletics championships differed between female and male athletes for location, type and event groups. Injury prevention strategies should be sex-specific, regarding the differences in injury location and type.