Injuries sustained during high intensity interval training: are modern fitness trends contributing to increased injury rates?

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2019 Jul;59(7):1206-1212. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.19.09407-6. Epub 2019 Feb 12.


Background: Over the past decade, interest in high intensity interval training (HIIT) has increased considerably. The objective of this study was to determine injury incidence coinciding with increased popularity of HIIT and identify ways physicians can advise patients prior to participation.

Methods: The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) was queried from 2007 through 2016 to estimate injury incidence related to exercises such as burpees, push-ups, and lunges and exercise equipment such as barbells, kettle bells, and boxes, which are representative of HIIT exercise programs. Injury incidences were calculated and compared between 2007-2011 and 2012-2016. Over the same time period, Google Trends was used to determine the popularity of HIIT.

Results: There were an estimated 3,988,903 injuries, most often in males (58%) aged 20 to 39 years (39%). Most commonly, injuries were in the lower extremity (35.3%), trunk (28.5%), and upper extremity (19.6%). From 2012-2016 versus 2007-2011, there was a 144% increase in all injuries including a 159% increase in trunk injuries, a 137% increase in lower extremity injuries, and a 132% increase in upper extremity injuries. There was also a 127% increase in lower extremity strains and a 124% increase in upper extremity strains. Additionally, knee and ankle sprains increased 125%. These increases in injury incidence correlated with a 274% increase in HIIT interest.

Conclusions: Given increases in injuries related to high-intensity workout programs, athletes should be educated on how to minimize preventable injuries. With particularly high rates of knee and ankle sprains and strains, neuromuscular training and pre-strengthening programs, which have been previously demonstrated to be effective among young athletes, may be particularly worthwhile in prospective participants. Physicians must be up to date with current fitness trends to best advise patients appropriately.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • High-Intensity Interval Training / adverse effects*
  • High-Intensity Interval Training / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lower Extremity / injuries
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sprains and Strains / epidemiology
  • Upper Extremity / injuries
  • Young Adult