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Lifetime history of sexual and physical abuse among competitive athletics (track and field) athletes: cross sectional study of associations with sports and non-sports injury
  1. Toomas Timpka1,2,3,
  2. Staffan Janson4,
  3. Jenny Jacobsson1,2,
  4. Örjan Dahlström1,5,
  5. Armin Spreco1,2,3,
  6. Jan Kowalski1,2,
  7. Victor Bargoria1,2,6,
  8. Margo Mountjoy7,8,
  9. Carl Göran Svedin1,9
  1. 1 Athletics Research Centre, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  2. 2 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  3. 3 Unit for Health Analysis, Centre for Healthcare Development, Region Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden
  4. 4 Department of Women ́s and Children ́s Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  5. 5 Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  6. 6 Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya
  7. 7 Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  8. 8 International Olympic Committee Medical Commission, Games Group, Lausanne, Switzerland
  9. 9 Barnafrid, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Prof. Toomas Timpka, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping SE-581 83, Sweden; toomas.timpka{at}


Objective To examine associations between lifetime sexual and physical abuse, and the likelihood of injury within and outside sport in athletes involved in competitive athletics.

Methods A cross sectional study was performed among the top 10 Swedish athletics athletes using 1 year prevalence of sports and non-sports injuries as the primary outcome measure. Associations with sociodemographic characteristics, lifetime abuse history and training load were investigated. Data were analysed using simple and multiple logistic regression models.

Results 11% of 197 participating athletes reported lifetime sexual abuse; there was a higher proportion of women (16.2%) than men (4.3%) (P=0.005). 18% reported lifetime physical abuse; there was a higher proportion of men (22.8%) than women (14.3%) (P=0.050). For women, lifetime sexual abuse was associated with an increased likelihood of a non-sports injury (OR 8.78, CI 2.76 to 27.93; P<0.001). Among men, increased likelihood of a non-sports injury was associated with more frequent use of alcoholic beverages (OR 6.47, CI 1.49 to 28.07; P=0.013), while commencing athletics training at >13 years of age was associated with a lower likelihood of non-sports injury (OR 0.09, CI 0.01 to 0.81; P=0.032). Lifetime physical abuse was associated with a higher likelihood of sports injury in women (OR 12.37, CI 1.52 to 100.37; P=0.019). Among men, athletes with each parents with ≤12 years formal education had a lower likelihood of sustaining an injury during their sports practice (OR 0.37, CI 0.14 to 0.96; P=0.040).

Conclusions Lifetime sexual and physical abuse were associated with an increased likelihood of injury among female athletes. Emotional factors should be included in the comprehension of injuries sustained by athletes.

  • athletics
  • sexual harassment
  • sporting injuries
  • epidemiology

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  • Contributors TT is the lead investigator. TT, CGS and SJ designed the study. All authors were involved in the study design and reviewed the draft of the report. TT, CGS and SJ coordinated the data management, and TT drafted the report. AS carried out the statistical analysis, reviewed by ÖD and JK. All authors approved the final version of the report. TT is the guarantor.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the research ethics committee in Linköping, Sweden.

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