Introduction: Injuries of the lower extremity lead to disability to perform sports and may cause degenerative changes of the joints. Hence, we developed a specific injury prevention programme for European team handball and tested this programme in a prospective study.
Method: One handball team (2 nd division) performed a proprioceptive and neuromuscular training during the preseason. The programme consists of 3 different components: 1. Information on injury mechanisms, 2. Proprioceptive training, and 3. Jump training. During the season the exercises have been continued with lower intensity. Another handball team which performed no injury prevention training served as control. Injuries were recorded in a prospective manner. In a retrospective arm of the study we compared the frequency of severe injuries of the training season with the frequency of severe injuries during the last season.
Results: In comparison to the last year no player from the prevention training team suffered a severe injury of the ankle or the knee. During the last season three athletes ruptured their anterior cruciate ligament. In the untrained control group one athlete suffered from an ACL rupture and one athlete had a rupture of the lateral ankle ligaments. These findings have no statistical significance because of the low number of individuals investigated. However, the incidence of light and medium injuries was significantly lower in the injury prevention group.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that proprioceptive and neuromuscular training is appropriate for the prevention of lower extremity injuries. Prevention strategies should be included in routine handball training programmes.