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Injury frequency and characteristics (location, type, cause and severity) differed significantly among athletics (‘track and field’) disciplines during 14 international championships (2007–2018): implications for medical service planning


Objective To analyse differences between athletic disciplines in the frequency and characteristics of injuries during international athletics championships.

Methods Study design, injury definition and data collection procedures were similar during the 14 international championships (2007–2018). National medical teams and local organising committee physicians reported all newly incurred injuries daily on a standardised injury report form. Results were presented as number of injuries and number of injuries per 1000 registered athletes, separately for male and female athletes, and for each discipline.

Results From a total of 8925 male and 7614 female registered athletes, 928 injuries were reported in male and 597 in female athletes. The discipline accounting for the highest proportion of injuries was sprints, for both men (24%) and women (26%). The number of injuries per 1000 registered athletes varied between disciplines for men and women: highest in combined events for male athletes (235 (95% CI 189 to 281)) and female athletes (212 (95% CI 166 to 257)), and lowest for male throwers (47 (95% CI 35 to 59)) and female throwers (32 (95% CI 21 to 43)) and for female race walkers (42 (95% CI 19 to 66)). Injury characteristics varied significantly between disciplines for location, type, cause and severity in male and female athletes. Thigh muscle injuries were the main diagnoses in the disciplines sprints, hurdles, jumps, combined events and race walking, lower leg muscle injuries in marathon running, lower leg skin injury in middle and long distance running, and trunk muscle and lower leg muscle injuries in throws.

Conclusions Injury characteristics differed substantially between disciplines during international athletics championships. Strategies for medical service provision (eg, staff, facilities) during athletics championships should be discipline specific and be prepared for targeting the main injuries in each discipline.

  • injury prevention
  • surveillance
  • epidemiology
  • athletics

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