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Lifetime history of sexual and physical abuse among competitive athletics (track and field) athletes: cross sectional study of associations with sports and non-sports injury

Abstract

Objective To examine associations between lifetime sexual and physical abuse, and the likelihood of injury within and outside sport in athletes involved in competitive athletics.

Methods A cross sectional study was performed among the top 10 Swedish athletics athletes using 1 year prevalence of sports and non-sports injuries as the primary outcome measure. Associations with sociodemographic characteristics, lifetime abuse history and training load were investigated. Data were analysed using simple and multiple logistic regression models.

Results 11% of 197 participating athletes reported lifetime sexual abuse; there was a higher proportion of women (16.2%) than men (4.3%) (P=0.005). 18% reported lifetime physical abuse; there was a higher proportion of men (22.8%) than women (14.3%) (P=0.050). For women, lifetime sexual abuse was associated with an increased likelihood of a non-sports injury (OR 8.78, CI 2.76 to 27.93; P<0.001). Among men, increased likelihood of a non-sports injury was associated with more frequent use of alcoholic beverages (OR 6.47, CI 1.49 to 28.07; P=0.013), while commencing athletics training at >13 years of age was associated with a lower likelihood of non-sports injury (OR 0.09, CI 0.01 to 0.81; P=0.032). Lifetime physical abuse was associated with a higher likelihood of sports injury in women (OR 12.37, CI 1.52 to 100.37; P=0.019). Among men, athletes with each parents with ≤12 years formal education had a lower likelihood of sustaining an injury during their sports practice (OR 0.37, CI 0.14 to 0.96; P=0.040).

Conclusions Lifetime sexual and physical abuse were associated with an increased likelihood of injury among female athletes. Emotional factors should be included in the comprehension of injuries sustained by athletes.

  • athletics
  • sexual harassment
  • sporting injuries
  • epidemiology
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