Injuries impair the chance of successful performance by sportspeople: a systematic review

Br J Sports Med. 2017 Aug;51(16):1209-1214. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096731. Epub 2017 Apr 26.


Background: Cost-benefit analyses have been proposed for determining acceptable risk of injury regarding training and competition participation. Currently, there is no best evidence synthesis of the literature evaluating the relationship between injury/illness and chance of success or failure.

Objective: To evaluate the relationship between injury and/or illness and success and/or failure in athletic populations (individual and team sports).

Methods: This review was prospectively registered (PROSPERO CRD42016036729) and a systematic electronic search was conducted in May 2016. Inclusion criterion was any study design describing the association between injury and/or illness and success or failure in athletic performance. Two independent authors screened search results, performed data extraction and assessed methodological quality and strength of evidence using a modified Downs and Black appraisal tool and a modified van Tulder method, respectively.

Results: Of 10 546 titles identified, 14 satisfied the inclusion criteria and 7 had low risk of bias. Outcome measures associated with success and/or failure included: (1) availability of team members, (2) injury incidence, (3) injury burden, (4) squad utilisation and (5, 6) precompetition and in-competition injury. There was strong evidence that (1) increased availability of team members/athletes decreased the risk of failure and (2) precompetition and in-competition injuries were associated with increased risk of failure.

Conclusions: Injuries have a detrimental impact on team and individual athletic success. Increased player availability improves chances of success. Conversely, injuries sustained both prior to and during competition may increase risk of failure. Injury prevention should therefore be a priority for maximising athletic performance.

Keywords: Success; cost–benefit; failure; injury prevention; performance.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Bias
  • Humans