Sports-related injuries in athletes with disabilities

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Oct;24(5):e320-31. doi: 10.1111/sms.12175. Epub 2014 Jan 15.


The number of athletes with disabilities participating in organized sports and the popularity of the Paralympic Games is steadily increasing around the world. Despite this growing interest and the fact that participation in sports places the athlete at risk for injury, there are few studies concerning injury patterns, risk factors, and prevention strategies of injuries in disabled athletes. In this systematic literature search and critical review, we summarize current knowledge of the epidemiology of sports-related injuries in disabled athletes and describe their characteristics, incidence, prevalence, and prevention strategies. The outcomes of interest were any injury, either an acute trauma or an overuse event. PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Google Scholar were systematically searched and 25 of 605 identified studies met the inclusion criteria. Lower extremity injuries were more common in walking athletes, whereas upper extremity injuries were more prevalent in wheelchair athletes. The methodologies and populations varied widely between the studies. Few studies were sports or disability specific, which makes it difficult to determine specific risk factors, and few studies reported injury severity and prevention of injuries. Further longitudinal, systematic sports and disability specific studies are needed in order to identify and prevent injuries in athletes with disabilities.

Keywords: Disability; epidemiology; paralympic; sports; wounds and injuries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lower Extremity / injuries
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports for Persons with Disabilities*
  • Upper Extremity / injuries
  • Walking
  • Wheelchairs