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Are prevalence measures better than incidence measures in sports injury research?
  1. Rasmus Oestergaard Nielsen1,
  2. Katrin Debes-Kristensen1,
  3. Adam Hulme2,3,
  4. Michael Lejbach Bertelsen1,
  5. Merete Møller1,
  6. Erik Thorlund Parner4,
  7. Mohammad Ali Mansournia5,6
  1. 1 Section for Sports Science, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  2. 2 Australian Collaboration for Research into Injury in Sports and its Prevention (ACRISP), Federation University Australia, Victoria
  3. 3 Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4 Section for Biostatistics, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Denmark
  5. 5 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
  6. 6 Sports Medicine Research Center, Neuroscience Institute, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
  1. Correspondence to Professor Mohammad Ali Mansournia, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran; mansournia_ma{at}

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Prevalence and incidence are terms commonly used to describe the number, proportion and rate of sports injury in the epidemiological and clinical literature. Indeed, scientific articles have discussed the practical implications of choosing one of these measures over another in relation to better understanding the burden of injury as well as sports injury aetiology, prevention and treatment.1–3 Recently, the use of prevalence and not incidence has been promoted to demonstrate a relationship between training load and overuse sports injury.2 However, there is a need to further elaborate on the circumstances in which prevalence and incidence are used as both measures are relevant and depend on the goals of the researcher and study. Therefore, the purpose of this editorial is to explain the differences between prevalence-based and incidence-based measures, and promote when they should be used by drawing on available data from an existing 1-year, 933-person running injury cohort study (DANORUN4).

Incidence-based measures

Why do sports injuries develop? What we can do to prevent them? Which treatment options should be offered to injured athletes? These are arguably some of the most important questions facing coaches and clinicians. Fortunately, incidence-based measures can help to provide answers given that they relate to the occurrence of new sports injury in an athletic population within a specified period or how many injured athletes recover over time.

Incident cases

The number of incident cases can facilitate the identification of when injuries occur. This allows coaches and clinicians to carefully consider whether there have been any noticeable and …

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  • Handling editor Karim M Khan

  • Contributors RON wrote the drafts to the editorial and the remaining authors revised it for important intellectual content.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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