Epidemiology of Overuse Injuries in Collegiate and High School Athletics in the United States

Am J Sports Med. 2015 Jul;43(7):1790-7. doi: 10.1177/0363546515580790. Epub 2015 Apr 30.


Background: Overuse injuries result from microtrauma due to repetitive loading combined with insufficient tissue recovery time and can result in both immediate and long-term time loss from sports.

Hypothesis: Overuse injury rates and patterns differ across college and high school populations, sport, and sex.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Methods: Surveillance data for 16 sports from the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Injury Surveillance System (NCAA ISS; 2004-2005 through 2008-2009) and 14 sports from High School Reporting Information Online (High School RIO; 2006-2007 through 2012-2013) were analyzed. All reported injuries had an injury mechanism of overuse/gradual onset (college) or overuse/chronic (high school). Overuse injury incidence rates were calculated, and rate ratios with 95% CIs were used to compare subgroups.

Results: The rate of overuse injury was 3.28 times higher in college than high school sports (95% CI, 3.12-3.44). The rate of overuse injury among sex-comparable sports was higher in female than male athletes in both populations (college rate ratio, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.16-1.35; high school rate ratio, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.43-1.68). The lower extremity was the most commonly injured body site (college, 69.4%; high school, 70.4%). A larger proportion of overuse injuries among college athletes resulted in time loss of more than 21 days (college, 20.4%; high school, 7.7%) and surgery (college, 5.2%, high school, 2.5%).

Conclusion: Overuse injuries can impose a significant burden on college and high school athletes. Interventions addressing prevention of overuse injury are needed.

Keywords: HS RIO; NCAA ISS; college; epidemiology; high school; injury; overuse; sport; surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / injuries*
  • Male
  • Schools
  • Students
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universities