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Muscle injury is the principal injury type and hamstring muscle injury is the first injury diagnosis during top-level international athletics championships between 2007 and 2015
  1. Pascal Edouard1,2,3,
  2. Pedro Branco4,5,
  3. Juan-Manuel Alonso5,6
  1. 1Inter-university Laboratory on Biology of Motor skills (LIBM EA), University of Lyon, Saint Etienne, France
  2. 2Department of Clinical and Exercise Physiology, Sports Medicine Unity, Faculty of medicine, University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, Saint-Etienne, France
  3. 3Medical Commission, French Athletics Federation (FFA), Paris, France
  4. 4European Athletics Medical & Anti Doping Commission, European Athletics Association (EAA), Lausanne, Switzerland
  5. 5Medical & Anti Doping Commission, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Monaco
  6. 6Department of Sports Medicine, ASPETAR, Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pascal Edouard, Department of Clinical and Exercise Physiology, Sports medicine unity, IRMIS, Campus Santé Innovations, University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, Saint-Etienne cedex 2, Saint-Etienne 42055, France; Pascal.Edouard42{at}


Background During top-level international athletics championships, muscle injuries are frequent.

Objective To analyse the incidence and characteristics of muscle injuries and hamstring muscle injuries (hamstring injuries) occurring during top-level international athletics championships.

Methods During 16 international championships held between 2007 and 2015, national medical team and local organising committee physicians reported daily all injuries on a standardised injury report form. Only muscle injuries (muscle tears and muscle cramps) and hamstring injuries have been analysed.

Results 40.9% of all recorded injuries (n=720) were muscle injuries, with 57.5% of them resulting in time loss. The overall incidence of muscle injuries was higher in male athletes than female athletes (51.9±6.0 vs 30.3±5.0 injuries per 1000 registered athletes, respectively; RR=1.71; 95% CI 1.45 to 2.01). Muscle injuries mainly affected the thigh (52.9%) and lower leg (20.1%), and were mostly caused by overuse with sudden onset (38.2%) and non-contact trauma (24.6%). Muscle injury risk varied according to the event groups. Hamstring injuries represented 17.1% of all injuries, with a higher risk in male compared to female athletes (22.4±3.4 vs 11.5±2.6 injuries per 1000 registered athletes, respectively; RR=1.94; 95% CI 1.42 to 2.66).

Conclusions During international athletics championships, muscle injury is the principal type of injury, and among those, the hamstring is the most commonly affected, with a two times higher risk in male than female athletes. Athletes in explosive power events, male athletes and older male athletes, in specific were more at risk of muscle injuries and hamstring injuries. Injury prevention strategies should be sex-specific.

  • Hamstrings
  • Injury prevention
  • Athletics
  • Epidemiology

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