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Long term sport involvement and sport injury rate in elite young athletes
  1. N Maffulli1,
  2. A D G Baxter-Jones2,
  3. A Grieve3
  1. 1Keele University School of Medicine, UK
  2. 2University of Saskatchewan, Canada
  3. 3University of Aberdeen Medical School, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Prof. N Maffulli
    Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics, Keele University School of Medicine, Thornburrow Drive, Hartshill, Stoke on Trent ST4 7QB, UK;

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Many young athletes have undergone years of intensive training by adolescence.1,2 Intensive training at a young age may cause long term harmful effects.3 Our longitudinal study on the effects of intensive training in young British athletes (TOYA study), which ran from 1987 to 1992, showed a low prevalence of sports injuries from 1988 to 1990.4 Most sports injuries were minor, and did not seem to cause significant short to medium term health problems.4 Given the possible interaction between intensive training and growth during adolescence,5–7 some adolescent athletes may be particularly vulnerable to repetitive microtraumatic injury.2 Despite the perceived benefits of early training on bone mass accumulation,8,9,10 intensive training may have detrimental effects on young athletes’ growth,3 although these concerns are probably unfounded.2,10–12 However, it is possible that the effects of training at a young age may not manifest themselves until later in life. To our knowledge, there are no long term studies in young adulthood of injuries prevalence or sports participation in athletes who started systematic training during or prior to adolescence. As we had already studied a unique population of intensively trained elite young athletes, we planned the present study to establish the frequency and pattern of injuries sustained by the cohort of young intensively trained young British athletes originally enrolled in the TOYA study, 10 years after completion of the survey.


TOYA study (1987–92)

The Training of Young Athletes Study (TOYA) has been extensively described.4,13–15 In brief, the study used a mixed longitudinal design, taking annual measurements for three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990. Five age cohorts were used, with entry ages ranging from 8 to 16 years. During the course of the study the composition of these clusters remained the same; …

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  • Competing interests: none declared