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Design of a protocol for large-scale epidemiological studies in individual sports: the Swedish Athletics injury study
  1. Jenny Jacobsson1,
  2. Toomas Timpka1,
  3. Joakim Ekberg1,
  4. Jan Kowalski1,
  5. Sverker Nilsson1,
  6. Per Renström2
  1. 1Section of Social Medicine and Public Health, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  2. 2Section of Sports Orthopedic Surgery, Department of Surgical Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Jenny Jacobsson, PT MSc, Section of Social Medicine and Public Health, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping SE-581 83, Sweden; jenny.jacobsson{at}


Background Epidemiological studies have mainly been performed on team sports. The authors set out to develop a protocol for large-scale epidemiological studies of injuries among elite athletics athletes.

Methods An argument-based method for investigation of complex design problems was used to structure the collection and analysis of data. Specification of the protocol was preceded by an examination of requirements on injury surveillance in individual sports and iterated drafting of protocol specifications, and followed by formative evaluations.

Results The requirements analysis shows that the central demand on the protocol is to allow for detailed epidemiological analyses of overuse injuries, which subsequently requires regular collection of self-reported data from athletes. The resulting study protocol is centred on a web-based weekly athlete e-diary enabling continual collection of individual-level data on exposure and injuries. To be able to interpret the self-reported data on injury events, collection of a wide range of personal baseline data from the athlete, including a psychological profile, is included in the protocol.

Conclusions The resulting protocol can be employed in intervention programmes that can prevent suffering among both adult elite and youth talent athletes who have made considerable life investments in their sport.

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  • Funding Swedish Centre for Sports Research and SAA.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Ethical Board at Linköping University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.