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Injury rates in young female athletes may be underestimated

Injury rates among elite young female athletes may be higher than what is reported, new data suggest.

“Most studies define injury as the time loss of the investee, whereas many athletes with overuse injuries continue to take part, despite the pain and decreased performance. When the time-loss definitions are used, about 90 percent of overuse injuries seem to be missed,” the researchers write in the journal BMJ Open Sport Exercise Medicine.

Angelo Richardson of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, and colleagues studied 60 young women who participated in the national or international level in football, basketball and gymnastics. The average age of the study participants was 17.

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Every two weeks during the season 2014-2015, the participants completed questionnaires that asked about health problems, including not only new injuries but also overuse injuries, which occur in the course of time as a result of repeated load on the tissues, bones, and joints.

Overall, at any given time during the study, 48 percent of the athletes reported injuries, the authors found. And every two weeks, almost 61 percent of the athletes were reporting a type of health problem – an injury or illness.

In other words, if one thousand athletes, such as this were to take part in their sport for an hour, nine of them would sustain an injury, the researchers said. By comparison, a 2016 study of the high school football players in the USA that if a thousand of them were to practice or play football for an hour, but two would suffer an injury – with only a small difference between boys and girls.

Injury rates were equal for all three sports. But when it came to “substantial” injury, the football and basketball players had a higher risk, with the rates of approximately 28% in each group, in comparison with the turners, of which the rate of significant injuries was 16 per cent.

The high prevalence of self-reported accidents among these talented female athletes suggests that the efforts in the direction of prevention are needed, the authors wrote.

“I believe that this study offers some real value to what we know as professionals that work in the sport,” athletic trainer Scott Seaman, who is chairman of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

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“Often the data that we have deals with the loss of time injuries and the majority of the injuries athletic trainers treat on a daily basis, are non-loss of time,” said the Sailor, who was not involved in the study.

It is crucial that the athlete is adequately prepared for the demands of the sport, Sailor said. This will ensure that they have sufficient strength and flexibility, but it goes further than that, to ensure that they have the correct movement patterns – that’s the way they run, jump, lunge, country, etc. is efficient and effective, so that they will not collectively in a position where their body is not able to protect against the injury of tissues, ” he said.

“Working with athletic trainers or other sports medicine professionals can provide additional benefits and provide the correct form, movement and a reduced risk of injury. At least as important is to ensure that our athletes proper nutrition, hydration and rest,” he said.

Failing to do these things, predisposes the athlete to injury and disease, he added.

“Most of the training for athletes has now switched from maximum lifts in the gym to functional exercises that train sport-specific movement patterns,” said Lawrence Spriet, a researcher in the Department of Human Health and nutritional sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, in an email to Reuters Health.

“To ensure that the athletes fuel the right way by their diet, consistent warm-ups and cool-downs before and after exercise, and the use of individualized training protocols can all help in the prevention of injury,” said Boom, who was not involved in the study.

It is not uncommon for athletes to sustain injuries, but it is essential to try to prevent injuries that lead to time-loss from training and competition, loss of performance, and that may become chronic if not treated properly, Spriet added.

“Looking for the treatment at the beginning of the symptoms, or injury, to prevent this,” he said.

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