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Sports Medicine

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1103–1122 | Cite as

Reporting Multiple Individual Injuries in Studies of Team Ball Sports: A Systematic Review of Current Practice

  • Lauren V. FortingtonEmail author
  • Henk van der Worp
  • Inge van den Akker-Scheek
  • Caroline F. Finch
Open Access
Systematic Review

Abstract

Background

To identify and prioritise targets for injury prevention efforts, injury incidence studies are widely reported. The accuracy and consistency in calculation and reporting of injury incidence is crucial. Many individuals experience more than one injury but multiple injuries are not consistently reported in sport injury incidence studies.

Objective

The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate current practice of how multiple injuries within individuals have been defined and reported in prospective, long-term, injury studies in team ball sports.

Data Sources

A systematic search of three online databases for articles published before 2016.

Study Selection

Publications were included if (1) they collected prospective data on musculoskeletal injuries in individual participants; (2) the study duration was >1 consecutive calendar year/season; and (3) individuals were the unit of analysis.

Data Extraction

Key study features were summarised, including definitions of injury, how multiple individual injuries were reported and results relating to multiple injuries.

Results

Of the 71 publications included, half did not specifically indicate multiple individual injuries; those that did were largely limited to reporting recurrent injuries. Eight studies reported the number/proportion of athletes with more than one injury, and 11 studies presented the mean/number of injuries per athlete.

Conclusions

Despite it being relatively common to collect data on individuals across more than one season, the reporting of multiple injuries within individuals is much more limited. Ultimately, better addressing of multiple injuries will improve the accuracy of injury incidence studies and enable more precise targeting and monitoring of the effectiveness of preventive interventions.

Keywords

Injury Risk Sport Injury Ankle Sprain Injury Incidence Multiple Injury 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Key Points

While there is an increasing awareness of and increasing number of publications that report the collection of individual injury data across more than one season/year, the reporting of this injury data appears to be challenging.

Half of the publications identified reported the total number of injuries or injured athletes as an overall grouped result across the entire study duration.

Studies that recognised multiple individual injuries were largely limited to reporting recurrent injuries (of the exact same type and side).

Injury prevention efforts rely on accurate incidence estimates, and ongoing developments toward better reporting of multiple injuries is encouraged.

1 Introduction

For people who participate in team ball sports, injuries can unfortunately be a common occurrence. Reducing the chance of sustaining an injury is of importance for athletes, team support staff (e.g. coaches and trainers) and sports/health bodies, not only for individual health protection but also for broader benefits, such as better team performance [1, 2] and encouraging continued participation in sport [3]. Investigation of injury incidence is the basis of injury prevention as it is needed to identify the sports, injury types or risk factors (e.g. intrinsic and extrinsic risks) that need to be targeted for prevention, as well as to monitor the effectiveness of implemented interventions [4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. It follows that accuracy and consistency in the calculation and reporting of injury incidence, upon which these priorities are based, is crucial.

Consensus statements for injury surveillance in some sports [9, 10, 11] have been published in an effort to guide the accuracy and consistency of injury reporting sought across studies. Methodological papers have also been published with clear definitions and explanations of the different sports injury epidemiological terms [12] and how to interpret or apply them [6, 7, 13, 14]. In short, to facilitate comparison across different sports, settings and follow-up periods, a common measure used to describe the frequency of injury is the incidence proportion, which is essentially the number of new injuries sustained in a defined population (inclusive of the injured person) over a specified period of time. In a sports-injury context, the numerator is generally the number of injuries or number of injured athletes, while the denominator/time component is often reported as the total number of athletic exposures or hours played during the follow-up period.

One of the major challenges in sports injury research is that many athletes experience multiple injuries, therefore contributing to the numerator of injury rates more than once [7]. Where more than one injury is experienced, the terms ‘index injury’ for the first injury and ‘subsequent injury’ for injuries that follow can be used to differentiate injuries in a time-ordered sequence [15]. Where the same body part is injured repeatedly, and is classified as having the same nature, injuries are commonly referred to as being ‘recurrent’ [11, 15, 16, 17]. Some subsequent injuries will have a clear biomechanical relation to an initial index injury (e.g. recurrent left-side ankle sprains), while others may be indirectly linked (e.g. calf injury leads to an ankle sprain). Subsequent injuries may also occur due to situational relationships (e.g. smaller player continues to collide with taller, heavier opposition player), or there may be no identifiable relationship to the initial index injury.

The delineation of multiple injuries is vital to the accuracy of determining injury incidence, with incorrect estimates arising if statistical dependencies across injuries are not properly accounted for [7, 18, 19]. The number of (subsequent) injuries is dependent on how injuries are defined (e.g. a new injury, a recurrent injury, first injury, etc.), the method of injury registration (e.g. self-reported, clinical diagnosis), data collection approach (e.g. prospective or retrospective), and length of follow-up (e.g. one season/year only or continued data collection, with longer follow-up having a higher likelihood of more than one injury). Most prospective injury studies have limited their data collection to one sports season only, although it is likely that injury incidence varies over seasons [19]. Moreover, it is possible that injury occurrences across seasons are related to injuries in an earlier season [15, 19]. The risk of injury is generally considered to be higher in people who have had a previous injury, with reasons thought to be related to residual tissue weaknesses, the athlete’s sport, position or behaviour presenting an inherent risk, or the individual returning to sport before complete recovery of an injury [15, 20]. Increased sporting experience has also been shown to reduce injury risk, perhaps owing to better developed physical conditioning or maturity in match play [21, 22]. What is most clear is that there is likely to be an altered risk of future injury over time, particularly for previously injured athletes [19].

The aim of this systematic review is to consider how multiple injuries sustained by individuals have been defined and reported in prospective, long-term (more than one consecutive year or season), injury incidence studies. The review is focused on team ball sports as these sports are often prioritised for injury prevention globally due to large numbers of injuries and participants, and there is a substantial body of literature reporting injury incidence. With the information extracted from the selected studies, we describe whether, and how, multiple injuries within individuals have been addressed and reported. This is important because weaknesses in existing research need to be identified so that they can be addressed in future work through better study design, improved methodological considerations, enhancements to statistical analysis and reporting of injury data or refocussed clinician and researcher training.

2 Methods

2.1 Search

A search of the PubMed, Web of Science and Embase databases was performed, on the basis that the leading sports medicine journals are indexed within these databases. The full search strategy is described in electronic supplementary material Appendix S1. Studies that reported injury incidence in team ball sports for more than 1 calendar year or at least two consecutive seasons were included. As not all studies include keywords that consider duration of the study (i.e. we sought more than one season), the search strategy was initially kept broad and a relatively large number of publications screened to allow a specific check of inclusion dates in the full text. All articles were screened by two authors independently, using the criteria described below. Differences were discussed and when no consensus was obtained upon study inclusion, a third author adjudicated. No date restriction was placed for the beginning of the search, with studies included up to an end date of 31 December 2015. Where we could not locate an original paper from our resources, authors were directly contacted.

2.2 Study Selection

Articles were included if (1) they reported injury incidence (i.e. not specific to one injury type) over the time period (e.g. not game injuries only) because we were interested in multiple injuries, studies focusing on single injury types or those sustained in games only were deemed overly restrictive; (2) the study was conducted with participants of team ball sports; (3) data were collected prospectively; (4) the follow-up was more than 1 calendar year or over at least two consecutive seasons; (5) data were collected in a defined cohort (e.g. club, division, school, team, league); and (6) an individual identifier was clear in the collection of data (i.e. an ID or name that would allow the research team to potentially link more than one injury within individuals). The latter criterion was deemed crucial if the original authors had been able to report multiple injuries within an individual.

Non-English language articles, conference abstracts, commentaries and reviews were excluded. Studies based on hospital data were excluded because generally people do not always attend hospital with a sports injury, nor do they exclusively attend the same hospital, therefore such data cannot be used to confidently identify multiple injuries within individuals. Studies conducted during (multiple or consecutive) tournament-style competitions were also excluded as there are often long time frames between such competitions and athletes are likely to participate in other competitions/events over the period during which their injury risk exposures and outcomes would be unaccounted. Where more than one publication was presented from the same source study/dataset, we initially included all publications identified (that met all inclusion criteria) as different approaches may have been used to report/analyse data across papers; if the same data and analysis were reported (albeit for a different aim), only the earliest study published was kept and is presented with a note indicating subsequent publications. The exact number of publications excluded by different reasons is not provided as they were excluded on the first identified reason only (therein potentially presenting an inaccurate picture, as additional reasons, other than the first identified, could also apply).

2.3 Data Extraction

The following data were extracted from the articles, by two authors, into an Excel database. Relevant results were tabulated and presented, along with their descriptive information across five tables.

Descriptive information provided in Table 1 included:
Table 1

Methods for defining and reporting sports injuries in studies of more than one consecutive year/season

References

Sport

Number of athletes included

Setting, sex (age range)

Country/region

Study duration, years

Primary focus of injury measure

Sports incapacity

Sports injury

Sports trauma

Multiple injury results

Dagiau et al. [51]

American football

54

College, male (NS)

USA

2 seasons, 1976 and 1977

Risk

    

Canale et al. [52]

American football

265

College, male (NS)

USA

5 seasons, 1975–1979

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Zelisko et al. [53]

Basketball

30

Elite/professional, male and female (NS, adult)

USA

2 seasons, NS

Incidence

 

Y

  

Orchard et al. [54]

Australian football

NS

Elite/professional, senior and junior, male (16–35 and 15–18 years)

Australia

3 seasons, 1992–1994

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Hawkins and Fuller [55]

Association football (soccer)

Total NS (average 138)

Elite/professional, male (NS, adult)

UK

NS, 1994–1997

Risk

Y

  

Y

Powell and Barber-Foss [56]

Mixed (American football, basketball, Association football, volleyball)

52,439 player-seasonsa

High school, male and female (NS)

USA

3 seasons, 1995–1997

Incidence and risk

Y

Y

 

Y

Meeuwisse et al. [57]

Canadian football

981

University, male (NS)

Canada

5 seasons, 1993–1997

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Powell and Barber-Foss [58]

Mixed (basketball, Association football, baseball/softball)

27,095 player-seasonsa

High school, male and female (NS)

USA

3 seasons, 1995–1997

Risk

Y

Y

 

Y

Starkey [59]

Basketball

1094

Elite/professional, male (18–43 years)

USA

10 seasons, 1998–1997

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Gunnoe et al. [60]

American football

331

High school, male (NS, grades 8–12)

USA

2 seasons, 1995 and 1996

Risk

Y

Y

 

Y

Hawkins et al. [61]

Association football

2376

Elite/professional, male (17–35+ years)

UK

2 years, 1997–1998 and 1998–1999

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Watson [62]

Mixed (Association football, Gaelic football, hurling)

86

County [good club level], male (24 years, ±3.7)

Ireland

2 years, NS

Risk

Y

   

Drawer and Fuller [63]

Association football

138

Elite/professional, male (NS, adult and youth)

UK

3 seasons, 1994–1997

Risk

Y

  

Y

Orchard and Seward [64]

Australian football

2672 player-seasons

Elite/professional, male (NS, adult)

Australia

4 seasons, 1997–2000

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Gabbett [65]

Rugby league

156

Semi-professional, male (NS, U19 to adult)

Australia

2 seasons, 2000 and 2001

Incidence

 

Y

  

Meeuwisse et al. [66]

Basketball

312

College, male (NS)

Canada

2 years, NS

Incidence and risk

Y

Y

  

Turbeville et al. [37]

American football

646

Middle school, male (10–16 years)

USA

2 seasons, 1998 and 1999

Incidence and risk

Y

Y

 

Y

Turbeville et al. [29]

American football

717

High school, male (13–19 years)

USA

2 seasons, 1998 and 1999

Incidence and risk

Y

Y

 

Y

McManus et al. [67]

Australian football

535

Community, male (16–50 years)

Australia

2 years, 2000–2001 and 2001–2002

Incidence

Y

Y

 

Y

Powell and Dompier [68]

Mixed (basketball, American football, Association football, volleyball)

2,358,197 athletic exposures

College, male and female (NS)

USA

2 seasons, 1999–2000 and 2000–2001

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Price et al. [69]

Association football

4773

Youth academies, male (9–19 years)

UK

2 seasons, 1997 and 1998

Incidence and risk

Y

  

Y

Giza et al. [70]

Association football

202

Elite/professional, female (NS, adult)

USA 

2 seasons, 2001 and 2002

Incidence

 

Y

  

Kucera et al. [48]

Association football

1483

Elite youth, male and female (9–18 years)

USA

4 seasons, 1997–2000

Incidence and risk

Y

   

Hägglund et al. [36]

Association football

197b

Elite/professional, male (17–38 years)

Sweden

2 seasons, 2001 and 2002

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Le Gall et al. [71]

Association football

528

Elite/professional, junior male (U14–U16 yearsc)

France

10 seasons, August 1993–June 2003

Incidence

Y

  

Y

McManus et al. [72]

Netball

368

Community, female (16–30 years)

Australia

2 seasons, 1997 and 1998

Incidence

Y

Y

 

Y

Merron et al. [73]

Association football

197

Elite/professional senior and junior, male (18+ years and 16–18 years)

UK

4 years, NS

Incidence

Y

   

Ortega-Gallo et al. [31]

Association football

41

Elite/professional juniors, male (mean 23.4 years, ±3.7)

Argentina 

2 seasons, 2000 and 2001

More than one injury

Y

Y

 

Y

Ramirez et al. [25]

American football

5118

High school, male (13–18+ years)

USA

2 seasons, 2001 and 2002

Incidence

Y

Y

 

Y

Deehan et al. [30]

Association football

210

Elite/professional junior, male (9–18 years)

UK

5 years, 1999–2004

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Dompier et al. [35]

American football

779

Community junior, male (9–14 years)

USA

2 seasons, 2002 and 2003

Incidence

Y

Y

 

Y

Rauh et al. [28]

Mixed (basketball, soccer, volleyball)a

25,187 player-seasons

High school, females (NS)

USA

3 years, 1995–1997

More than one injury

Y

Y

 

Y

Brooks et al. [74]

Rugby union

502

Elite/professional, male (NS, adult)

UK

2 seasons, 2002–2003 and 2003–2004

Risk

Y

   

Le Gall et al. [27]

Association football

119

Elite/professional junior, female (15–19 years)

France

8 seasons, 1998–2006

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Johnson et al. [75]

Association football

292

Elite/professional juniors, male (9–16 years)

UK

6 years, 2001–2007

Risk

Y

Knowles et al. [76]

American football

3323

High school, male (14–19 years)

USA

3 seasons, 1996–1999

Incidence and risk

Y

Y

  

Drakos et al. [26]

Basketball

1643

Elite/professional, male (17– 43 years)

USA

17 seasons, 1988–1989 to 2004–2005

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Dupont et al. [34]

Association football

32

Elite/professional, male (mean 25.6 years, ±3.8)

UK

2 seasons, 2007–2008 and 2008–2009

Incidence and risk

Y

  

Y

Dauty and Collon [77]

Association football

173

Elite/professional, male (mean 24.1 years, ±4)

France

15 seasons, 1995–1996 to 2009–2010

Incidence

Y

   

Mallo et al. [39]

Association football

22 per year

Sub-elite, male (mean 24.8 years, ±3.5)

Spain

4 seasons, 2003–2004 to 2006–2007

Incidence 

Y

  

Y

Mallo and Dellal [78]

Association football

35

Elite/professional, male (mean 21.4 years, ±2.4)

Spain

2 seasons, 2007–2008 and 2008–2009

Incidence and risk 

Y

  

Y

Murphy et al. [79]

Gaelic football

851

Elite/professional, male (mean 24.9 years, 18–36 years)

Ireland

4 seasons, 2007–2010

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Chalmers et al. [80]

Australian football

382

Sub-elite U18, male (mean 17.1 years, ±0.8, 14–19 years)

Australia

2 seasons, 2010 and 2011

Incidence and risk

Y

   

Eirale et al. [81]

Association football

527

Elite/professional, male (mean 26.8 years, ±4.9)

Qatar

3 seasons, 2008–2011

Incidence and risk

Y

  

Y

Ekstrand et al. [82]

Association football

1743

Elite/professional, male (NS, adult)

Europe

11 seasons, 2001–2012

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Grooms et al. [83]

Association football

41

College, male (mean 20.1 years, ±2.0, 18–25 years)

USA

2 seasons, 2009 and 2010

Incidence and risk

Y

Y

  

Hägglund et al. [1]

Association football

24 teams

Elite/professional, male (NS, adult)

Europe

11 seasons, 2001–2012

Incidence

Y

   

Malisoux et al. [84]

Mixed (volleyball, basketball, handball, Association football)

372d

Elite youth, male and female (12–19 years)

Luxembourg

3 years, 2008–2011

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Peck et al. [85]

Rugby (union and sevens)

369

College, military students, male and female(NS)

USA

5 years, 2006–2007 to 2010–2011

Incidence

 

Y

  

Tourny et al. [86]

Association football

412

Elite youth, sex NS (12–20 years)

France

3 seasons, 2009–2011

Incidence and risk

 

Y

  

Barber-Foss et al. [38]

Mixed (basketball, soccer, volleyball)

268

Middle school, female (NS)

USA

3 seasons, 2009–2010

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Barron et al. [87]

American football

1295

Community youth team, sex NS, (NS)

USA

5 years, 2000–2004 and 2005

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Bjørneboe et al. [88]

Association football

11–14 teams/year

Elite/professional, male (NS, adult)

Norway

6 years, 2002–2007

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Mohib et al. [89]

Association football

196

Elite youth, male and female (13–17 years)

Canada

4 years, 2008–2012

Incidence

Y

Y

  

van der Sluis et al. [33]e

Association football

26

Elite junior, males (mean 11.9 years, ±0.84)

Netherlands

3 years, 2002–2007

Incidence and risk

  

Y

Y

Carling et al. [90]

Association football

59

Elite/professional, male (NS)

France/international

5 seasons, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Incidence and risk

Y

  

Y

Carling et al. [24]

Association football

14

Elite/professional, male (NS)

France

6 seasons, 2009–2015

Risk

Y

  

Y

Dompier et al. [91]

Mixed (basketball, soccer, volleyball, American football)

5,146,355 athlete exposures

High school, male and female (NS)

USA

3 years 2011–12 to 2013–14

Incidence

Y

Y

  

Ekegren et al. [92]

Australian football

Year 1: 1205

Year 2: 823

Community, male (injured, mean 24 years, SD 4, range 18–41 years)

Australia

2 seasons, 2012 and 2013

Incidence

  

Y

Y

Gastin et al. [93]

Australian football

69

Elite/professional, male (mean 22.8 years, ±3.6; range 17–32 years)

Australia

4 seasons, 2007–2010

Risk

Y

  

Y

Kerr et al. [94]

American football

3167

Youth, sex NS (mean 10.7 years, SD 1.9, 5–14.9 years)

USA

2 seasons, 2012 and 2013

Risk

Y

Y

  

Kristenson et al. [95]

Association football

2 clubs

Elite/professional, male (NS)

Sweden/Norway

2 seasons, 2008 and 2009

Incidence

Y

   

Laux et al. [96]

Association football

22

Elite/professional, male (mean 25.8 years, ±5)

Germany

2 seasons, 2009–10 and 2010–11

Risk

Y

   

Lawrence et al. [97]

American football

984 team games

Elite/professional, male (NS)

USA

2 years, 2012–13 and 2013–14

Incidence

Y

   

Massidda et al. [98]

Association football

54

Elite/professional, male (mean 25.9 years, ±4.3)

Italy

4 seasons, 2009–2013

Incidence

Y

   

Owen et al. [99]

Association football

23

Elite/professional, male (mean 26.8 years, ±4.6, range 18–38)

NS

2 seasons, NS

Incidence and risk

Y

   

Palmer-Green et al. [49]

Rugby union

472

Elite junior, males (range 16–18 years)

UK

2 seasons, 2006–07 and 2007–08

Incidence

Y

  

Y

Pastor et al. [32]

Volleyball

34

Professional, male (mean 25.43 years)

Germany

6 years, 2007–2008 to 2012–13

Incidence and risk

 

Y

 

Y

Reeser et al. [100]

Volleyball

637,786 athletic exposures 339,753 athletic exposures

High school and college, female (NS)

USA

4 years, 2005–2006 to 2008–2009

Incidence

Y

   

Williams et al. [101]

Rugby union

1462

Elite/professional, male (NS)

England

7 seasons, 2006–2007 to 2012–2013

Incidence

Y

   

Hulin et al. [102]

Rugby league

53

Elite/professional, male (mean 23.4 years, SD 3.5)

Australia

2 seasons, NS

Risk

Y

   

NS not stated, Y yes, SD standard deviation, U14 = players younger than 14 years, U15 = players younger than 15 years, U16 = players younger than 16 years, U18 = players younger than 18 years, U19 = players younger than 19 years

a Data relating to team ball sports only were extracted

b Participants from both years of the study only

c Age groups not age identified

d Unable to differentiate number of team ball sport participants and other sports

e A 2015 study with the same data was identified and was therefore not included

  • participant demographics (sex, age) and sport setting (sport, level of play, country/region)

  • number of included athletes (or athlete-seasons or alternative)

  • study duration and time frames

  • study aim, summarised as the primary focus of the injury measure, being:
    • incidence (number of injuries occurring in the population over time)

    • risk (investigations of independent variables that contributed to the occurrence of the injury)

    • incidence and injury risk in combination (with each defined in the same manner as incidence and risk separately)

    • more than one injury (study was specifically looking at relationships between more than one individual injury occurrence)

  • injury definition, coded according to Timpka et al. [23] as
    • sports incapacity—performance/participation impacted on (commonly includes ‘time loss injuries’)

    • sports injury—clinically observed injuries

    • sports trauma—self-reported injuries by athletes

  • identification of multiple individual injuries in results (reported within the publication—yes or no)

  • severity or duration of injury where relevant to the definition, i.e. sport incapacity with 24-h time loss or the minimum number of games missed.

From publications that presented pooled (grouped) injury results, the number of injuries and number of injured participants were summarised, demonstrating that there was more than one injury occurrence by individuals in these studies (Table 2). Where injury data were presented on a per-person basis (i.e. not only presenting pooled injury results for an entire group), additional information was extracted on how individual injury data were presented, the number of injuries, and the number of individuals injured (Tables 3, 4, 5).
Table 2

Number of injuries, athletes and injured athletes in studies that did not specifically report multiple injury occurrences

References

Number of injuries reported

Number of athletes included

Injured athletes (n or %)

Number of injuries greater than the number of included athletes

Number of injuries greater than the number of injured athletes

Dagiau et al. [51]

129

54

Not reported

Y

Zelisko et al. [53]

272

30

Not reported

Y

Orchard et al. [54]

4065

NS

Not reported

Meeuwisse et al. [57]

1811 injury-events (1971 distinct injuries)

981

Range 53.5–60.4 % (different years)

Y

Starkey [59]

7449 athletic-related injuries (9904 inclusive of all reported injuries/illnesses)

1094

961 (all reported injury/illness)

Y

Y

Watson [62]

NA (mean days of injury reported)

86

Not reported

Gabbett [65]

2253

156

Not reported

Y

Meeuwisse et al. [66]

215

312

142

N

Y

Powell and Dompier [68]

68,497

2,358,197 athletic exposures

Not reported

N

Giza et al. [70]

173

202

110

Y

Y

Kucera et al. [48]

787

1483

40.7 %

N

N

Merron et al. [73]

427

197

195

Y

Y

Brooks et al. [74]

1475

502

Not reported

Y

Knowles et al. [76]

1238

3323

1064

N

Y

Drakos et al. [26]

12,594

1643

Not reported

Y

Dauty and Collon [77]

903

173

Not reported

Y

Chalmers et al. [80]

232

382

Not reported

N

Grooms et al. [83]

17

41

Not reported

N

Hägglund et al. [1]

7792

24 teams

Not reported

Peck et al. [85]

659

369

222

Y

Y

Tourny et al. [86]

618

412

Not reported

Y

Barber-Foss et al. [38]

134

268

Not reported

N

Barron et al. [87]

694

1295

Not reported

N

Mohib et al. [89]

733

196

Not reported

Y

Dompier et al. [91]

47,014

5,146,355 athlete exposures

Not reported

Kerr et al. [94]

1475

3167

915

N

Y

Kristenson et al. [95]

323

2 clubs

Not reported

Laux et al. [96]

44

22

Not reported

Y

Lawrence et al. [97]

4284

984 team games

1172

Y

Massidda et al. [98]

NA (mean injury incidence by subgroups reported)

54

Not reported

Owen et al. [99]

119

23

Not reported

Y

Reeser et al. [100]

792 (high school)

1380 (college)

637,786 athletic exposures

339,753 athletic exposures

Not reported

Williams et al. [101]

6967

1462

Not reported

Y

Hulin et al. [102]

205

53

Not reported

Y

Y yes, N no, NS not stated, NA not applicable, – indicates not able to be answered by data presented in study

Table 3

Proportion of athletes with recurrent injuries (same type, same site) identified in studies reporting injury recurrence (n = 20 studies)

References

Follow-up (years)

Sports incapacity definition (duration of incapacity/injury inclusion)a

Recovery definition

% of injuries classified as ‘recurrent/re-injuries’

Recurrence definition within 2 months of initial injury

 Ekstrand et al. [82]

11

Sports incapacity (next match/training)

Return to sport

12

 Le Gall et al. [71]

10

Sports incapacity (>48 h)

Return to sport

3

 Le Gall et al. [27]

8

Sports incapacity (at least 1 day after day of onset)

Not addressed

4

 Carling et al. [90]

5

Sports incapacity (following session)

Return to sport

17b

 Mallo et al. [39]

4

Sports incapacity (next match/training)

Return to sport

9

 Eirale et al. [81]

3

Sports incapacity (next match/training)

Return to sport

12

Recurrence definition >2 months or not specified

 Bjørneboe et al. [88]

6

Sports incapacity (at least 1 day)

Return to sport

20

 Hawkins and Fuller [55]

4

Sports incapacity (at least 1 day, not including day of injury)

Days missed

22

 Orchard and Seward [64]

4

Sports incapacity (at least one regular match)

Return to sport

17

 Murphy et al. [79]

4

Sports incapacity (at least 24 h from midnight on day of injury)

Return to sport

23

 Gastin et al. [93]

4

Sports incapacity (missed subsequent game)

Not addressed

28

 Powell and Barber-Foss [56]

3

Sports incapacity (any duration), or sports injury (fractures, dental injury) or sports incapacity and sports injury (mild brain injury)

Medical clearance for return to sport

10

 Powell and Barber-Foss, [58]

3

Sports incapacity (any duration), or sports injury (fractures, dental injury) or sports incapacity and sports injury (mild brain injury)

Medical clearance for return to sport

14 (girls basketball)

10 (boys basketball)

10 (girls soccer)

8 (boys soccer)

 Drawer and Fuller [63]

3

Sports incapacity (at least 1 day)

Not addressed

22

 Malisoux et al. [84]

3

Sports incapacity (at least one match/training)

Not addressed

11 (time period 1)

20 (time period 2)

26 (time period 3)

 Hawkins et al. [61]

2

Sports incapacity (>48 h, not including day of injury)

Return to sport

7

 Price et al. [69]

2

Sports incapacity (>48 h, not including day of injury)

Return to sport

3

 Mallo and Dellal [78]

2

Sports incapacity (any part of match/training)

Days missed

15

 Ekegren et al. [92]

2

Sports trauma

Days missed

17

 Palmer-Green et al. [49]

2

Sports incapacity (at least 24 h from following day)

Days missed

15 (academy)

21 (school)

aDefinitions from Timpka et al. [47]

bOnly recurrences sustained while participating in a national team were reported

Table 4

Summary of the proportion of athletes with more than one injury (from the total included and injured only) [n = 8 studies]

References

Follow-up (years)

Number of athletes included

Number of injured athletes

Number of injuries

Number of athletes with more than one injury

% of injured athletes with more than one injury

% of all included athletes with more than one injury

Average number of injuries per included athletea

Average number of injuries per injured athleteb

Le Gall et al. [27]

8

119

110

619

99

90

83

5.2

5.6

Rauh et al. [28]

 Basketball

3

1271

1748

335

26

 

1.4

 Soccer

 

1258

1771

342

27

 

1.4

 Volleyball

 

580

701

100

17

 

1.2

McManus et al. [72]

2

1997

368

112

Minimum 146

29

26

8

 

1998

160

Minimum 258

70

44

19

McManus et al. [67]

2

535

400

1031

254

64

47

1.9

2.6

Gunnoe et al. [60]

2

331

121

165

32

26

10

0.5

1.4

Turbeville et al. [29]

2

717

100

132

17–26

0.2

1.3

Ramirez et al. [25]

2

5118

1307

1700c

298

23

6

0.3

1.3

Canale et al. [52]

5

265

227

283

51

22

19

1.1

1.2

aCalculated as number of injuries/number of included athletes

bCalculated as number of injuries/number of injured athletes

cTotal injury events (more than one diagnosis given to some events)

Table 5

Outcomes of included studies (n = 11) that have reported the number/mean injuries per athlete over time

References

Outcome

Mean injuries per athlete per season

 Ortega-Gallo et al. [31]

9.5 injuries per athlete per season

 Le Gall et al. [71]

2.2 injuries per athlete per season

 Deehan et al. [30]

0.6 injuries per athlete per season

 Ekegren et al. [92]

0.7 injuries per athlete per season (first and second seasons)

Mean injuries per athlete over study period

 Le Gall et al. [27]

5.2 injuries per athlete

 Mallo et al. [39]

3.6 ± 0.7 injuries per athlete

 Mallo and Dellal, [78]

2.3 ± 1.8 injuries per athlete

 Dupont et al. [34]

5.2 ± 3.7 injuries per athlete

 Pastor et al. [32]

1.94 per athlete (acute injuries)

0.64 per athlete (overuse injuries)

 van der Sluis et al. [33]

6.85 ± 5.46 for the total group during the 3 years

Number of injuries per athlete per 1000 h

 Johnson et al. [75]

2.23 injuries each athlete per 1000 h

3 Results

After removing duplicates, the search resulted in 7630 studies. The majority of these studies were excluded after reading the abstract, with 235 full-text publications retrieved for detailed reviewed (see Fig. 1). Based on information in the full-text of publications, a further 164 papers were excluded because they had less than 1 year of data collection, collected data at a team level not an individual level, were not full original research papers or did not cover all injuries (e.g. focusing only on match injuries or knee injuries). Overall, 71 publications were retained for analysis.
Fig. 1

Study selection and inclusion process

The studies covered a range of different sports and settings (Table 1), with between 14 [24] and 5118 [25] individual participants reported. Twelve studies presented participant inclusion without individuals, but rather as the number of teams per year or the total number of athlete-seasons combined. Not all participants/teams were followed for the full duration of a study and it was uncommon for authors to report specific follow-up times of individuals/teams. Studies were conducted over a minimum of two seasons/years (in line with our inclusion criteria), to a maximum of 17 consecutive years [26]. Almost one-quarter (n = 16, 23 %) of included studies were published in 2015 or later.

Summarising the broad aim of the papers, half (n = 39 of 71, 55 %) were aimed at reporting the incidence of injury, one-quarter (n = 17, 24 %) reported both injury incidence and injury risk, 18 % (n = 13) were focused on the risk of injury alone, and 3 % (n = 2) were aimed at investigating more than one injury occurrence.

Injury definitions were most commonly based around the Timpka et al. [23] domain of sports incapacity (Table 1). Sports incapacity was often used in combination with a specified definition from the sports injuries domain (a clinically observed injury) wherein certain diagnoses (e.g. fractures, dislocations) were included, irrespective of the incapacity incurred. For example, the definition may have read similar to ‘injuries that resulted in over 24 h of time loss, as well as all fractures and dislocations’.

Keeping in mind the inclusion criteria that an individual identifier was clear in the collection of data, almost half (n = 34 of 71, 48 %) of the studies did not report the number or distribution of multiple individual injuries within the study (Table 2). From these studies, the number of injured athletes could not be confirmed from data in 24 of 34 publications (71 %). The number of injuries exceeded the number of included athletes in 17 of 26 (65 %) papers in which the relevant injury and athlete numbers could be identified. Furthermore, the number of injuries exceeded the number of injured athletes in 8 of 9 papers (89 %) where relevant numbers could be identified. These two observations, in particular, indicate the presence of multiple injuries in some athletes.

Where multiple injuries were reported (n = 37 of 71, 52 %), studies mostly addressed recurrent injuries only (n = 20, 28 % of all studies, 59 % of studies reporting multiple injury results) (Table 3). The proportion of recurrent injuries varied from as few as 3 % of injuries to as many as 26 %, and was influenced by the injury definition, duration of the study, and recurrence criterion being within 2 months or greater than 2 months.

Eight studies (11 % of all studies, 22 % of studies reporting multiple injury results) reported a frequency proportion of athletes who had sustained varying numbers of injuries (e.g. up to 8, or grouped as 3+) (Table 4). Results from each of these studies were collapsed to enable comparable presentation of the number and proportion of athletes with more than one injury. As a proportion of all included athletes, as few as 6 % [25] and as many as 83 % [27] of athletes had multiple injuries recorded within the study period. As a proportion of injured athletes, there were as few as 17 % [28, 29] and as many as 90 % of athletes with more than one injury [27].

Eleven studies (15 % of all studies, 30 % of studies reporting multiple injury results) presented the mean number of injuries per athlete for a specified time (Table 5). A range of 0.6 [30] to 9.5 injuries [31] was observed when considered as an average per athlete per season. Looking at the mean per athlete over the whole study period, the range varied from 0.6 to 1.9 (injuries reported separately as overuse and acute, respectively [32]) to 6.9 injuries [33] per athlete over the study period.

In the included publications, other methods used to report multiple individual injuries included the numerical range of injury numbers sustained by an individual (e.g. Pastor et al. [32] and Dupont et al. [34]), the maximum number of injuries sustained by an individual (e.g. Dompier et al. [35]), the risk of injury in subsequent seasons (e.g. Rauh et al. [28] and Hägglund et al. [36]), or simply stating that some athletes had more than one injury during the season [37].

4 Discussion

Documenting injury incidence requires consistent and precise measures in order to accurately study risk factors for injury and to prioritise and monitor preventive interventions. Experiencing more than one injury is common in sports settings, and this presents challenges to the collection and reporting of injury incidence data. Different approaches have been used in addressing this challenge. In this review, we aimed to identify the most common data reporting methods for handling cases of multiple injuries in longitudinal studies of team ball sport participants. Our key finding was that in half of all studies that extend for more than one year/season, the number of injuries or injured athletes was pooled (grouped) over the whole time period and reported as an overall total. In other words, the occurrence of multiple injuries was not explicitly reported despite these same studies having collected data at an individual level—one of our inclusion criteria for the review. Of the studies that did report multiple injuries, many were limited to inclusion of recurrent injuries only (i.e. those of the exact same type and at the same site). Very few authors have recorded and reported multiple injuries of differing natures and they have largely done so using inconsistent methods across studies that prevented an in-depth comparison of the results or strong conclusions on the likelihood of athletes experiencing subsequent injury.

4.1 Understanding the Current Limitations in Injury Reporting

The most common presentation of data was pooled injury counts summarised across teams/seasons. This is problematic if there is no indication of the number of athletes sustaining more than one injury, particularly in studies aiming to infer injury risk. Although many of the included studies did not have a primary aim to look at more than one injury in individuals, the issue still needs to be considered. For example, a common study aim might be to follow specific teams/squads to determine changes in team outcomes based on new training practices. Similarly, school-level sport competitions may be interested in how overall safety levels change over time, not individual risks. However, when reporting injury incidence for an understanding of injury risk, the individual distribution of the number of injuries is important because of its impact on the correct statistical reporting of incidence rates [17]. As an example, one study reported 134 injuries in 268 athletes over 3 years “yielding a risk of injury of 50 %” [38] (p148). Such a statement is only true if there were no athletes with more than one injury within the study population. As the authors did not report the distribution of injuries by participants, it is not possible to verify this but, in general, findings reported in this manner will miss details that are vital for interpreting results. In its most simplistic form, this information is depicted in Fig. 2, reporting scenario A. It can be seen that the incidence outcomes within this scenario (10 athletes included, with 20 injuries in total) are similar for both seasons, although the actual situation is very different (refer to the numbers in black circles).
Fig. 2

Different reporting scenarios for injuries in a fictional team of 10 athletes followed for two consecutive seasons. Black circles indicate that athletes were included in the team during the season, white circles indicate that athletes were not included in the team during the season, and the number in circle indicates the number of injuries in the specified timeframe

Where the potential for an individual having more than one injury in the results was recognised, this was sometimes addressed by reporting the range of injuries sustained or the maximum number of injuries sustained by an individual, e.g. ‘between one and n injuries occurred’. Other authors acknowledged the problem of multiple injuries by reporting the mean and standard deviation for injuries per athlete/team per season (e.g. “On average, an athlete incurred 3.6 ± 0.7 injuries” [39]). Figure 2, reporting scenario B, shows that these approaches still fail to adequately address how an individual with more than one injury impacts the group result as it can again be seen that incidence outcomes using this scenario are similar for both seasons (range 0–9 injuries; maximum: 9; mean: 2 injuries per athlete per year), although the actual situation is very different (refer again to the numbers in black circles).

It was clear that many cohort participants within the reviewed studies had likely experienced more than one injury (i.e. where the number of injuries recorded exceeded the number of injured participants). This is common in studies of sports injury. Similarly, the number of injured athletes is often less than the number of athletes included, as can be seen in Table 2. In other words, injury data in team sports are commonly skewed, with a large number of zero counts, and this distribution needs to be considered [17]. One, or just a few athletes, might sustain the majority of team injuries [15, 28], as shown in Fig. 2, scenario C. For any team, at any time point, the proportion of athletes contributing to the injury count will differ. Therefore, even those studies reporting team-level data and overall changes in annual injury counts (and not necessarily concerned by any individual outcomes) still need to consider individual bias in the results.

Irrespective of whether a simple or complex study design and analysis method is chosen to meet a study’s aim, authors must clearly identify the relevant details of included variable characteristics as they relate to multiple injuries. As a minimum, the frequency distribution of the number of injuries is recommended for inclusion in future work (see example in Finch and Cook [15]). This information would at least enable readers to gain a sense of the individual burden and scope for potential dependency between multiple injuries sustained, as well as providing crucial support for the choice of statistical modelling applied (e.g. if there is overdispersion of data or a high number of zero counts) [17, 40]. This more detailed presentation of the data is similar to recommendations of analyses where time to injury data is considered, with improved reporting of assumptions and detailing of the event being modelled [7, 41].

4.2 Other Findings Identified from the Review

A key finding was that the majority of studies presented broad annual injury rates across teams/seasons. Few gave specific reasoning as to why the results were presented in this way, with the exception of an aim being to compare year-to-year outcomes. One study team reported that results in two of their publications were both pooled as there was no statistically significant change over time [29, 37]. Reasons why pooled data may be favoured by researchers could include the avoidance of difficulties with ethical approval if data are reported at a group level not an individual level; a need for confidentiality, as pooling the data hides small or distinctive values; the analysis is less complicated if data are grouped; pooling data will give larger numbers, allowing for more sophisticated analyses; or to avoid the difficulties in differentiating between index/recurrent/subsequent injuries. While the results across studies were presented largely as pooled data at the team level, the collection of data itself was at an individual level, with some form of identifier in the data collection process a requirement of our study inclusion process. Based on these studies, it would seem that it is easier to record, rather than adequately report, more than one injury within study cohort members.

The overall number of publications extending beyond one season/year has increased over the last 2–3 years. This possibly reflects a growing understanding of the need to look not only beyond one season when considering injury risk but also new validated technology to facilitate long-term data collection. For example, recent studies document the value of online applications and SMS text messaging in enabling a relative ease of access and follow-up of participants [42, 43]. Online and automated forms of data collection will be further enhanced in coming years if analytical methods and reporting algorithms that make the most of individual-level data also become widely used.

A limitation of the current understanding about multiple injuries in the reviewed studies is the focus being largely limited to recurrent injuries—injuries that are exactly the same site and same type as previously incurred by an individual. Clinical experience and new classification models substantiate the need to look at the relationships between injuries more broadly [15]. Another barrier to reporting multiple injuries is how to document and measure recovery. Recovery is a key element in determining whether a subsequent injury is new or potentially related to a previous occurrence. Unlike other injury contexts, the risk of more than one injury in the sports setting is high and there can be a short time lag between the injury events. Within this review, we have not identified and reported how recovery was defined or addressed, although the importance of this topic and its relation to reporting multiple injuries is acknowledged. We initially attempted to include the information but found the message confused our primary aim of reporting methods of multiple injuries. What was clear in terms of recovery was that authors mostly used a return-to-sport definition, with or without clearance from a medical specialist and at differing levels (i.e. training, partial return to competition, or full return to competition). Operationalising ‘return to sport’ as an outcome measure is challenging [44, 45] and, indeed, there is an entire consensus statement developed for this specific issue [46]. With the exception of the date of return, recovery from injury as a clearly defined outcome currently lacks universal objective measures and is influenced by a range of potential factors, including access to medical care and previously sustained injuries [44, 45, 46]. A second challenge in defining recovery arises with the recent expansion of more inclusive injury definitions that are no longer consistent with earlier recovery definitions. For example, if a holistic approach is used in a definition, such as ‘recordable incidents inclusive of psychological factors’[47], then it is not clear how concepts of readiness, fear and confidence contribute to recovery and return-to-play definitions. The ongoing discussion among researchers, and proposed methods for addressing this topic, are promising and will only serve to improve not only an understanding of recovery but also, in turn, multiple injuries.

4.3 Limitations of the Review

We included all studies where it was clearly stated that an individual unique code had been assigned to identify each included athlete, in which case an individual injury history could theoretically have been traced over the duration of the study. Despite a conservative approach to excluding papers, referring to the full text for information in order to be certain of exclusions, there remains a possibility of having missed papers owing to the challenges of identifying and interpreting authors’ methods for inclusion and recording of injury data. In particular, it was often unclear from the identified studies whether individual data were available based on the described methods of data collection. Nevertheless, it is likely we have captured a highly representative sample of the majority of publications that have adopted the most commonly used methods in the general team ball sports injury research literature. Future work could consider multiple injuries in individual sports and determine whether reporting in this setting is different. It would also be worth assessing if there is better or worse capture of overuse injuries than the more traumatic, time-loss injuries, which tend to feature more heavily in team ball sport research, and determining whether this is due to data collection methods or true prevalence. Although the inclusion criteria specified that all injury types were to be captured by the studies (i.e. excluding studies of one injury type only), the delineation between injury types (traumatic, overuse) was not the focus of our results. As our conclusions are in relation to the reporting of injury counts only, they will apply equally to different injury types and also to non-team ball sports.

We chose to limit our studies to those of more than one season/year duration as an increased number of injuries is likely over increased time and we were interested in how researchers handled this methodologically. However, with this length of time it was not always clear how many individuals were followed. It is possible that in some studies, none, or very few individuals were followed up, as was the case with statements such as “only 45 players (7 %) were present in both years” [37] (p. 277). In some instances, authors reported the number of people who played each of the seasons whether or not they were injured, information that would be valuable to include in future studies. As examples, one study reported the number of athletes for each subsequent season as “thirty six players were followed for one season, 163 for two seasons, 701 for three seasons, 412 for four seasons and 171 for five or six seasons” [48] (p. 464). Similarly, in other papers, authors reported “the average player was in the database for 3.7 ± 3.2 seasons” [26] (p. 286) and 56 of 472 (12 %) athletes were included for the full duration of the study [49]. Our study findings are thus limited by the data reported in the original studies as we cannot be sure how many individuals were followed-up for a given length of time.

5 Conclusions

Limitations associated with the data that have been reported in previous sports-injury epidemiological studies have significantly hindered the ability to provide robust evidence about subsequent injuries. While differences in wording and definitions used for injuries, recovery, exacerbation, recurrence and so forth may seem inconsequential at times, their influence is far reaching [50], with differences affecting the accuracy of both the classification of injuries and calculation of injury incidence. This in turn limits our understanding of risk factors for injury.

Sports medicine research is not far from realising the collection and analysis of data that identify individual multiple injury occurrences, although the gap that remains may be challenging to bridge. Collaboration between different professions (clinicians, epidemiologists and biostatisticians) early in the design of a study will help to address some of these challenges. Ultimately, injury prevention efforts rely on accurate incidence estimates, and ongoing developments in this area are encouraged in order to advance understanding of the causal underpinnings of sports injuries and their prevention.

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Funding

No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflicts of interest

Lauren Fortington, Henk van der Worp, Inge van den Akker-Scheek and Caroline Finch declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

Supplementary material

40279_2016_637_MOESM1_ESM.docx (11 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 10 kb)

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© The Author(s) 2016

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren V. Fortington
    • 1
    Email author
  • Henk van der Worp
    • 2
  • Inge van den Akker-Scheek
    • 2
  • Caroline F. Finch
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian Collaboration for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP)Federation University AustraliaBallaratAustralia
  2. 2.Center for Sports MedicineUniversity of Groningen, University Medical Center GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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