Objective: To review 15 years of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) injury surveillance data for women's field hockey and identify potential areas for injury prevention initiatives.
Background: Field hockey is one of the most popular sports worldwide and is growing in participation in the United States, particularly among women. From 1988-1989 to 2002-2003, participation in NCAA women's field hockey increased 12%, with the largest growth among Division III programs. In 2002- 2003, 253 colleges offered women's field hockey and 5385 women participated.
Main results: Game injury rates showed a significant average annual 2.5% decline over 15 years, most likely fueled by drops in ankle ligament sprain, knee internal derangement, and finger fracture injuries. Despite this, ankle ligament sprains were common (13.7% of game and 15.0% of practice injuries) and a frequent cause of severe injuries (resulting in 10+ days of time-loss activity). Concussion and head laceration injuries increased over this same time, and the risk of sustaining a concussion in a game was 6 times higher than the risk of sustaining one during practice. Overall, injury rates were twice as high in games as in practices (7.87 versus 3.70 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures, rate ratio = 2.1, 95% confidence interval = 2.0, 2.3). Most head/neck/face (71%) and hand/finger/thumb (68%) injuries occurred when the player was near the goal or within the 25-yd line and were caused by contact with the stick or ball (greater than 77% for both body sites); for 34% of head/neck/ face injuries, a penalty was called on the play.
Recommendations: Equipment (requiring helmets and padded gloves) and rule changes (to decrease field congestion near the goal) as well as evidence-based injury prevention interventions (eg, prophylactic ankle taping/bracing, neuromuscular balance exercise programs) may be viable prevention initiatives for reducing injury rates in women's collegiate field hockey players.