Objective: To establish the incidence and severity of musculoskeletal injuries among elite biathletes.
Design: One-year retrospective cross-sectional study.
Setting: The survey was conducted during the first Biathlon World Cup event 2008/2009.
Participants: A total of 116 athletes filled out an anonymous online survey.
Main outcome measures: The questionnaire gathered data about location, type, onset, severity, and cause of injury.
Results: Among the study population, 47 athletes (40.5%) reported a total of 68 injuries (incidence of 58.6 injuries/100 athletes/year). Female athletes (54.4%) suffered more injuries than male athletes (39.7%). A total of 54.4% of injuries came on gradually, 54.4% occurred during the training season, and 39.7% required removal from competition or training sessions. The most commonly injured body parts were the lower back (38.9%), knee (35.7%), and shoulder (25%). Running was the primary cause of injury (27.9%). The independent variable "years of participation in biathlon" (7 years or more) correlated with an increased risk for injury (P = 0.036).
Conclusions: Biathlon is associated with a relatively high incidence of injuries, mostly of slight severity. Female athletes experience more injuries than male athletes. Lower back injuries are the most common injury site. The majority of injuries are caused from training activities such as running.