Injuries among weightlifters and powerlifters: a systematic review

Br J Sports Med. 2017 Feb;51(4):211-219. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096037. Epub 2016 Oct 4.


Background: Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting are two sports that expose the body to great forces. Injury characteristics have not been systematically reviewed for these two growing sports.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature regarding various definitions of injuries used, injury localisation, the prevalence and incidence of injuries and the associated risk factors for injuries in weightlifting and powerlifting.

Design: Systematic review.

Data sources: Five databases, PubMed, MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus, Scopus and Web of Science, were searched between 9 March and 6 April 2015.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: Studies assessing injury incidence and prevalence in Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting were included. The Quality assessment tool for observational cohort and cross-sectional studies was used to assess methodological quality.

Results: 9 studies were included in the review. Injury was defined fairly consistently across studies. Most studies were of low methodological quality. The spine, shoulder and the knee were the most common injury localisations in both sports. The injury incidence in weightlifting was 2.4-3.3 injuries/1000 hours of training and 1.0-4.4 injuries/1000 hours of training in powerlifting. Only one retrospective study had analysed possible risk factors.

Summary/conclusions: The risk of injury in both sports were similar to other non-contact sports also requiring strength/power, but low compared to contact sports. The severity of injuries differed in the included studies. Since little has been studied regarding possible risk factors to injuries, further research is therefore warranted to explain why athletes get injured and how to prevent injuries.

Trial registration number: PROSPERO CRD42015014805.

Keywords: Injury; Sports and exercise medicine; Weight lifting.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Back Injuries / epidemiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Knee Injuries / epidemiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder Injuries / epidemiology
  • Weight Lifting / injuries*