Objective: A review of the existing literature on injuries to youth (< or =18 years old) in track and field or athletics.
Data sources: Searches of the Medline and SPORT Discus databases for English language articles through the end of 2003, using the search terms (adolescent or youth) and (track or field or running) and injuries.
Main results: Only nine prospective or retrospective studies were found dealing with track and field injuries in children and that stated injury rates or provided enough information to allow the estimation of injury rates. Differences in study design and inconsistencies in the definition of a reportable injury provided major hindrances to making comparisons or combining data across studies. Among the few conclusions that can be drawn are that the lower extremities account for the majority of injuries, and muscle strains and ligament sprains are the predominant types of injury. While a majority of injuries may occur during training, since there is much more exposure during training than during competitions, the risk of injury is about four times higher during competitions.
Conclusions: Informed decisions with regard to preventing injuries in youth track and field are dependent upon the quality of the basic epidemiological data available, and at this time such data are, for the most part, nonexistent. Because of the large numbers of participants and the large number and variety of activities involved in track and field, adequately designed epidemiological research is difficult, but opportunities for research in this sport are available for anyone willing to take on the challenge.