Background: Handball is a physical contact sport that includes frequent overhead throwing, and this combination leads to a high rate of shoulder injuries. Several factors have been associated with shoulder injuries in overhead athletes, but strong scientific evidence is lacking for most suggested risk factors. We therefore designed the Karolinska Handball Study (KHAST) with the aim to identify risk factors for shoulder injuries in adolescent male and female elite handball players studying at handball-profiled secondary schools in Sweden. Secondary objectives are to investigate whether shoulder function changes during the competition season and whether the physical profile of the players changes during their time in secondary school.
Methods: Players aged 15 to 19 years were included during the pre-season period of the 2014-2015 and the 2015-2016 seasons. At inclusion, players signed informed consent and filled in a questionnaire regarding playing position, playing level, previous handball experience, history of shoulder problems and athletic identity. Players also completed a detailed test battery at baseline evaluating the shoulder, neck and trunk. Players were then prospectively monitored weekly during the 2014-2015 and/or 2015-2016 competitive seasons regarding injuries and training/match workload. Results from the annual routine physical tests in the secondary school curriculum including bench press, deep squat, hand grip strength, clean lifts, squat jumps, counter movement jumps, <30 m sprints, chins, dips and Cooper's test will be collected until the end of the competitive season 2017-2018. The primary outcome is the incidence of shoulder injuries and shoulder problems. The secondary outcome is the prevalence of shoulder injuries and shoulder problems.
Discussion: Shoulder problems are frequent among handball players and a reduction of these injuries is therefore warranted. However, in order to introduce appropriate preventive measures, a detailed understanding of the underlying risk factors is needed. Our study has a high potential to identify important risk factors for shoulder injuries in adolescent elite handball players owing to a large study sample, a high response rate, data collection during consecutive seasons, and recording of potential confounding factors.
Keywords: Athletic injuries; Elite; Handball; Overhead sport; Overuse; Risk factor; Shoulder injury.