How often do competitive wrestlers get hurt, what are the most common wrestling injuries, and what are the risk factors for injury in wrestlers? We're not talking WWF here - but real wrestling, the kind carried out by school and college athletes.
To answer the important questions above, researchers recently studied 458 wrestlers from 14 different US schools over the course of a full season. An injury was defined as a problem requiring treatment by a trainer or doctor and causing a wrestler to miss at least one day of athletic participation ('A prospective study of high-school wrestling injuries,' Am J Sports Med, vol. 28, pp. 509-515, 2000).
Conclusion? If you don't want your son to get hurt in his sporting activity, steer him away from wrestling. There were 219 injuries in the 458 wrestlers over the course of the season, for an overall injury incidence of 5.2 injuries per 10 wrestlers per season. An injury occurred roughly every 167 workouts or matches, and the most commonly injured parts of the body were the shoulder (24% of all injuries) and the knee (17%). Surprisingly, injured wrestlers were on average about five months older than non-injured athletes and had a 32% higher experience level than non-injured wrestlers. Apparently, experienced wrestlers were willing to take more chances during workouts and matches or else attempted more difficult, more-likely-to-produce-injury manoeuvres.
Having good flexibility appeared to be a key thing. Wrestlers with greater ligamentous laxity suffered fewer shoulder injuries, compared with 'tighter' wrestlers. The most common wrestling situation resulting in injury was the take-down procedure (68% of all injuries resulted from this manoeuvre).
What can we learn from this study? First, wrestlers should work very hard to improve dynamic strength in their shoulder and knee areas, since these appear to be the two most common sites of injury in wrestling (accounting for almost half of all problems). Having good flexibility also appears to be a positive, especially with regard to shoulder injury, the most common wrestling malady. Unlike the situation in other sports, experience does not downgrade injury risk in wrestling; in fact, older and more experienced wrestlers appear to be at greater risk because they are willing to attempt higher-speed and more sophisticated manoeuvres on the mat.