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Rib stress injuries in the 2012–2016 (Rio) Olympiad: a cohort study of 151 Australian Rowing Team athletes for 88 773 athlete days


Aim To describe the demographics, frequency, location, imaging modality and clinician-identified factors of rib stress injury in a cohort of elite rowers over the Rio Olympiad (2012–2016).

Methods Analysis of prospectively recorded medical records for the Australian Rowing Team in 2013–2015 and the combined Australian Rowing Team and Olympic Shadow Squad in 2016, examining all rib stress injuries.

Results 19 rib stress injuries (12 reactions and 7 fractures) were identified among a cohort of 151 athletes and included 12 female and 7 male cases, 11 open weight, 8 lightweight, 12 scull and 7 sweep cases. The most common locations of injury identified by imaging, were the mid-axillary line and rib 6. Period prevalence varied from 4% to 15.4% and incidence ranged from 0.27 to 0.13 per 1000 athlete days. There were no significant differences in prevalence by sex, sweep versus scull or weight class. There was a statistically significant increase in incidence in the pre-Olympic year (2015, p<0.001). MRI was the most commonly used modality for diagnosis. Stress fracture resulted in median 69 (IQR 56–157) and bone stress reaction resulted in 57 (IQR 45–78) days lost to full on water training.

Conclusions In our 4-year report of rib stress injury in elite rowing athletes, period prevalence was consistent with previous reports and time lost (median ~10 weeks) was greater than previously published literature. Rib stress injury limits training and performance in elite rowers and MRI should be considered as a first line investigation.

  • rowing
  • athlete
  • injury prevention
  • injury
  • stress fracture

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