Background: Participation in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football is at an all-time high. This population of athletes experiences a substantial injury burden, with many injuries affecting the upper extremities.
Purpose/hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to describe the epidemiology of hand and wrist injuries in college football players from the academic years 2009-2010 to 2013-2014. We hypothesized that variables such as event type (practice vs game), mechanism of injury, and player position would have an effect on the injury incidence.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiological study.
Methods: An epidemiological study utilizing the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program was performed to investigate rates and patterns of hand and wrist injuries in participating varsity football teams from 2009-2010 to 2013-2014.
Results: A total of 725 hand and wrist injuries were captured in 899,225 athlete-exposures. The observed practice injury rate was 0.51 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures, compared with a game injury rate of 3.60 (P < .01). Player-on-player contact was the most common injury mechanism reported, with blocking being the most common activity at the time of injury. Offensive linemen were most likely to experience an injury. Of all injuries sustained, 71.4% resulted in no time loss from competition, whereas 9.8% of injuries resulted in longer than 7 days of time loss. A fracture resulted in the greatest time loss from competition (mean ± SD, 8.3 ± 24.0 days; median, 0 days [range, 0-148 days] for injuries sustained in a practice setting) (mean ± SD, 7.7 ± 15.8 days; median, 0 days [range, 0-87 days] for injuries sustained in a game setting).
Conclusion: Hand and wrist injuries were found to be significantly more common in games when compared with practices. This study provides valuable prognostic data regarding expected time loss on a per-injury pattern basis. Further investigation on specific injury subtypes and expected time loss as a result of these injures would provide trainers, players, and coaches with useful information on an expected postinjury recovery and rehabilitation timeline.
Keywords: athlete; incidence; prevention; surveillance.