Objectives: To identify risk factors for injury and to establish safety guidelines for children in Uechi-Ryu karate.
Design: A 1-year retrospective survey of injuries.
Setting: A private karate school (Uechi-Ryu style) in Plymouth, MA.
Patients: A total of 68 athletes (age 6-16 years; mean age 10 years) who participated in karate during the 1995-1996 season.
Main outcome measures: The presence or absence of injury, with grading of injuries as major, moderate or minor. The types of injuries and body region involved were also analyzed.
Results: Twenty eight percent of athletes sustained at least one injury. All injuries were minor, with no time off from training required. The injuries consisted primarily of bruises (11 of 19). Other injuries included mild sprains or strains (5 of 19) and having their 'wind knocked out' (3 of 19). Most injuries were localized to the extremities. Logistic regression analysis identified risk factors for injury. Risk of injury increased with number of years of training (odds ratio 2.95; 95% confidence interval 1.81-4.82; P<0.0001), number of hours per week (odds ratio 2.12; CI 1.15-4.21; P = 0.016) and rank, specifically brown belt versus lower belts (odds ratio 6.56; CI 2.02-21.26; P = 0.006).
Conclusions: Karate is a relatively safe sport for children and adolescents when properly taught. Risk of injury increases with experience; therefore, greater supervision is required of higher ranks. Injury increases with weekly training; however, 3 h a week or less appears to be associated with a low risk of significant injury in this age group.