What are the common bone and joint injuries in wrestling? Are skin infections common. Here is some data on wrestling injuries and conditions.

Frances asks:
My 14 year old son is going out for wrestling. I’ve heard of some real serious orthopaedic injuries in this sport. Which are most common?

This is a great question because wrestling is a popular sport the United States. As of the 2005–2006 academic year, wrestling was the sixth most popular boys’ sport at the high school level, with over 250,000 athletes participating.

It is worthwhile to separate medical conditions that cause wrestlers to miss matches and practices into two groups – injuries and skin infections. Ellen E. Yard and other researchers looked at the incidence and types of conditions in both categories for high school and college wrestling.

Wrestling injuries are common

Musculoskeletal wrestling injuries

Based on data from the 2005–2006 academic year, the researchers estimated approximately 100,000 injuries occur in United States high school wrestling (99,676) each year. They noted some other important injury patterns:
• The injury rate is three times higher in collegiate wrestling than in high school wrestling.
• Strains/sprains make up about half of the injuries.
• The shoulder and knee are the most common body parts injured in high school wrestling (18.6% and 15.4%, respectively).
• The knee (24.8%), shoulder (17.8%), and the head and face (16.6%) are most often affected in college wrestling.
• Severity of injuries varies greatly. At the high school level, 44.9% of the injuries lead to less than one week of missed wrestling. 29.1% cause one to three weeks of missed time, and 20% cause more than a three-week absence.
• 7.8% of high school wrestling injuries require surgery. Specific injuries needing surgery include elbow fractures, shoulder dislocation/subluxations, and hand fractures, in that order.
• Injuries most commonly occur with takedown and sparring.

Skin infections in wrestling

As I discussed on a recent podcast, skin infections are a real problem in high school and collegiate wrestling. They comprised about 20% of all the adverse events at the college level and 8.5% of the adverse events in high school wrestling.
• The most common skin infections reported include impetigo, herpes, and ringworm, in that order.
• The head/face is the most common location skin infection, followed by the arm and the neck, respectively.
• Skin infections tend to cluster in schools. In this study, 81% of the schools had no skin infections. About 10% reported one skin infection. Approximately 8% reported having between two and eight skin infections in that year.

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Yard EE, Collins CL, Dick RW, Comstock RD. An Epidemiologic Comparison of High School and College Wrestling Injuries. Am J Sports Med. 2008;36(1)57-64.