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Injuries in high-level heptathlon and decathlon
  1. P Edouard1,
  2. J-B Morin1,
  3. J Pruvost2,
  4. A Kerspern2
  1. 1Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Laboratory of Exercise Physiology (EA 4338), University Hospital, Saint-Etienne, France
  2. 2Medical Commission of the French Federation of Athletics (FFA), Paris, France


Background Decathlon and heptathlon are track and field disciplines during which participants run, jump, and throw. The training and the competitions are highly demanding from both the physical and psychological standpoints because of the frequency and intensity of the events that could lead to important risk of injury.

Objective To prospectively determine the frequency, location and types of injuries suffered by the high-level decathletes and heptathletes.

Design Prospective cohort study.

Setting Athletes selected from the combined events French National team for heptathlon or decathlon competitions during the 1994 to 1998 seasons.

Participants 69 international level athletes: 30 heptathletes (21±4 yr, 176±6 cm, 61±4 kg) and 39 decathletes (22±6 yr, 186±6 cm, 80±8 kg).

Main outcome measurements All injuries were recorded during the 1994 to 1998 seasons. For each injury data, the circumstances of onset (training or competition), the injured body part, the type and the cause of injury were collected.

Results Among the 69 athletes included in this study, 32 athletes presented a total of 86 injuries. The injured rate was 31.1 injuries per 100 athletes per season. 43% of the injuries occurred during competitions, 30% during training and 27% unknown. In approximately half of the cases, the injuries were caused by overuse (49%), and in the other half by non-contact trauma (43%). The majority of injuries were located on the lower extremity (77%), and 9% on the lower back. The injuries concerned tendons (41%) and muscles (23%). The most common diagnoses were knee tendinopathy (14%), followed by lower leg strain (13%), thigh strain (11%) and Achilles tendinopathy (11%).

Conclusion Injuries are common in high-level decathletes and heptathletes. Specific preventive measures of the most common injuries (knee and Achilles tendinopathies, lower leg and thigh strains) should be introduced and their effectiveness evaluated by prospective surveillance.

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