Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Practice Injury Rates in Collegiate Sports (Sports Med Res)
Monday, December 24, 2012

Practice Injury Rates in Collegiate Sports

Practice injury rates in collegiate sports.

Agel J, Schisel J. Clin J Sports Med. 2012. [Epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3182717983

Understanding when injuries are more likely to occur (e.g., practice vs competition, preseason vs in-season) can help us optimize injury prevention programs. To date, research has hinted at evidence that practice injury rates may be higher during pre-season compared to other parts of the season but this has not been thoroughly investigated. Therefore, Agel and Schisel evaluated the differences in practice injury rates within a competitive season (preseason, in-season, postseason) and across 15 sports and college levels (NCAA Division I, II, and III). The authors used the NCAA Injury Surveillance System for data collection and identified within- season practice injury rates between 1988 and 2004. Each enrolled school had designated personnel to track the number of athletes participating, injury occurrence, and subsequent loss of time from activity. Per sport, approximately 10% of eligible schools participated each year. The authors followed the NCAA definition of seasonal sports as well as the classification of practices and competition. A practice injury was defined as any injury that occurred while at an NCAA sanctioned practice, required evaluation by an athletic trainer or physician, and resulted in at least one day loss of participation. Injury rates were then recorded per 1000 Athletic Exposures (A-E), which was considered participation in any NCAA sanctioned event. The highest practice injury rate was observed in preseason (~6.3 per 1000 A-E) followed by in-season (~2.3 per 1000 A-E) and post-season (~1.3 per 1000 A-E) practices. Additionally, fall sports had the highest rate ratio of preseason-to-in-season practice injuries (> 3 times more injuries in preseason than in-season) compared to winter sports (~ 2.5 more injuries in preseason) and spring sports (> 2 times more injuries in preseason). To be more specific, the highest ratios of preseason-to-in-season practice injuries were in football, men’s soccer, and women’s soccer while the lowest ratios were in women’s lacrosse and men’s wrestling. Injury differences across NCAA divisions were anticipated by the authors but the data did not consistently support this.

This article provides a basis for future investigation of possible reasons for the increased preseason injury rates, as well as acts as a guide in the development of training regimens to attempt to reduce the risk of preseason injuries. Contributing to the higher ratio of fall preseason-to-in-season injuries may be the long summer break, which each athlete spends differently. Not all athletes keep up with their training and conditioning during the summer. These factors may contribute to fall sports demonstrating the highest ratio of fall preseason-to-in-season injuries. However, it cannot be ruled out if this finding is just a common characteristic of the sports that play in the fall (e.g., football, soccer). Are you seeing similar trends in your setting? What methods do you use to attempt to mitigate preseason practice injuries, particularly in fall sports?

Written by: Christian Glaser, DO and Peter C. Vitanzo, MD
Reviewed by: Laura McDonald

Related Posts:
Agel J, & Schisel J (2012). Practice Injury Rates in Collegiate Sports. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine PMID: 23160274

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