Wrestling Among Lowest in Injury Rates at 2016 Olympic Games

By Babak Shadgan, MD, MSc Sports Med, PhD

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY (April 7) -- The Medical and Anti-Doping Commission of the United World Wrestling has been actively monitoring and analyzing wrestling injuries since the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. The results of the injury surveillance studies were used to implement more effective preventive measures and improve health and safety in wrestling.

At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, a total of 352 wrestlers sustained 22 injuries during 410 matches, which is equivalent to an overall incidence of 6.2 injuries per 100 athletes and 5.4 injuries per 100 matches. Among the three styles, Women Wrestling had the lowest injury rate (4.4%), followed by freestyle (6.7%) and Greco-Roman (7.6%).

Across styles more injuries were observed in the middle-weight categories with the most common injury type was skin laceration and contusion, mostly on the forehead and eyebrows followed by shoulder and elbow sprains. The majority of injuries (68.2%) happened during the standing position when wrestlers engaged for a takedown and collided with their heads or when a wrestler’s knee or elbow hit the opponent’s head and face. Twisting a joint was the second most common mechanism of the injury.

Fifty-five percent of all injuries were classified as light, 27% as moderate and 18% as severe; 4 bouts were terminated due to an injury. No critical injury occurred on the mats and no wrestler was hospitalized for an injury during the Games.

Interestingly, while the overall injury rate in Summer Olympic Sports shows a gradual increase during recent Olympic Games, the rate of wrestling injuries during 2016 Rio Games were lower than 2012 London (12%) and 2008 Beijing (9.3%) Olympic Games. Higher education, improvements in wrestling rules and regulations and more attention to wrestler’s health care during recent years might explain this difference.

United World Wrestling is one of the only International Sports Federations with an established systematic Injury Surveillance Program since 2004 and is committed to lead this program aiming to monitor and further reduce the injuries in wrestling.