Background Little is known about the overall health of adolescent distance runners.
Objective To describe all health problems (injuries and illnesses) in relation to type, location, incidence, prevalence, time loss, severity, and burden, in competitive adolescent distance runners in England.
Design Prospective observational study monitoring all health problems for 24-weeks between May and October (2019).
Setting Competitive adolescent distance runners (i.e., 800 m to 10,000 m, including steeplechase) in England.
Patients (Or Participants) Distance runners (13–18 y) were invited to participate if they had achieved a top-50 performance in their age-group (U20, U17 and U15) during 2018. A total of 644 athletes were invited to take part, with 136 athletes (73 females) having enrolled and completed the study (lost to follow-up: n = 7).
Main Outcome Measurements The prevalence and burden of health problems was recorded using the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center Questionnaire on Health Problems (OSTRC-H). The OSTRC-H was completed online, via Qualtrics, on a weekly basis.
Results A total of 363 health problems were registered during this study, including 213 injuries and 150 illnesses. At any time, 24% [95% Confidence Intervals (CI): 21–26%] of athletes reported a health problem, with 11% [95% CI: 9–12%] having experienced a health problem that had substantial negative impact on training and performance. Female athletes reported noticeably more illnesses, compared to male athletes, including higher prevalence, incidence, time loss, and severity. The most burdensome health problems, irrespective of sex, included lower leg, knee, and foot/toes injuries, alongside upper respiratory illnesses. The mean weekly prevalence of time loss was relatively low, regardless of health problem type or sex.
Conclusions Competitive adolescent distance runners are likely to be training and competing whilst concurrently experiencing health problems. These findings will support the development of injury and illness prevention measures.