Background: Little is known of injury patterns in track and field (athletics). Injury prevalence has been proposed as the most appropriate measure of the injury rate in sports where athletes are at risk for overuse problems.
Purpose: To ascertain 1-year retrospective and current prevalence of injury in elite track and field athletes to help plan injury prevention programs for this sport.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Methods: Two hundred seventy-eight youth (16 years old) and adult athletes from an eligible study population of 321 athletes were included.
Results: The 1-year retrospective injury prevalence was 42.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 36.9%-49.0%); the point prevalence was 35.4% (95% CI, 29.7%-41.4%). The diagnosis group displaying the highest injury prevalence was inflammation and pain in the gradual onset category (1-year prevalence, 20.9%; 95% CI, 16.2%-26.2%; and point prevalence, 23.2%; 95% CI, 18.4%-28.7%). A strong tendency for higher 1-year prevalence of 16.5% (95% CI, 12.2%-21.4%) than point prevalence of 8.5% (95% CI, 5.5%-12.5%) was recorded for sudden onset injuries in the diagnosis group sprain, strain, and rupture. The body region showing the highest injury prevalence was the knee and lower leg with 15.0% (95% CI, 11.0%-19.8%) 1-year prevalence and 13.7% (95% CI, 9.8%-18.3%) point prevalence, followed by the Achilles tendon, ankle, and foot/toe with 11.7% (95% CI, 8.2%-16.1%) 1-year prevalence and 11.4% (95% CI, 7.9%-15.8%) point prevalence.
Conclusion: The injury prevalence is high among Swedish elite track and field athletes. Most of the injuries affect the lower extremities and are associated with a gradual onset. Although it is associated with a potential recall bias, the 1-year retrospective prevalence measure captured more sudden onset injuries than the point prevalence measure. Future prospective studies in track and field are needed to identify groups of athletes at increased risk.