Background The quality of wrestling mats plays a major factor in minimizing the rate and severity of injuries. However, the last known studies on the topic were conducted more than 40 years ago, and scientific background for the current mat requirements is not available.
Objective The aim of the study was to collect data from athletes about their experiences on the quality of wrestling mats, to compare the mechanical properties of the most common mat materials, and to reconsider the current requirements for mats.
Design The members of the Hungarian national team were included in an anonymous, representative survey. The sample consisted of 120 athletes (average age: 23.2 ± 6.6 years). Furthermore, thirteen different material structure mats were tested, which covers the whole mat market.
Setting Athletes on any level can benefit from the results by implementing them in the international assessment protocol of wrestling mats.
Participants Members of the Hungarian national wrestling team, commercially available wrestling mats.
Main Outcome Measurements Injury incident rates, the role of wrestling mat in previous injuries, mat characteristics (cell structure, shock absorption, recovery capability, static stiffness, surface slipperiness)
Results Lower body injuries (knee 60%; ankle 57.5%) are more common, and a significant proportion of these can be attributed to poor quality sports mats. The incidence rate of concussion symptoms after inappropriate landing on a mat is also high. The mechanical properties of wrestling mats are significantly influenced by their material, density, and cell structure.
Conclusions Sufficient shock absorption of wrestling mats is not enough for injury prevention. The current regulation of wrestling mats should be updated by new measurement methods which deal with the effect of long-term, improper storage, static loads, and slippery surface to decrease low-extremity-related injuries. The development of multilayer foam structures is recommended to meet the requirements of United World Wrestling.
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