Young handball players injure themselves from sudden increases in training volume

With extra training sessions in the gym and more matches on the schedule, young handball players are at risk of shoulder injury. This is the result of new research from Aarhus University.

An additional training session on Thursday and a match during the week in the local cup tournament – in addition to regular training three times a week and tournament matches on Sunday. It would be a typical week for many young handball players.

But a sudden increase in the number of practices and matches is of crucial importance for children and young people with shoulder injuries. This is shown by a new doctoral project from Aarhus University, which is the first study worldwide to have examined the correlation between training and competition load and the development of shoulder injuries. .

The project was led by former elite handball player and PhD Merete Møller in collaboration with researchers from Aarhus University, the University of Southern Denmark and the Center for Sports Injury Research in Denmark. ‘Oslo.

Data from almost 700 young handball players aged 14 to 18 who were followed over the 31 weeks of a handball season form the basis of the results, which have now been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

During the weeks in question, the players provided information by text message on, for example, their injuries, the duration of training and the matches. A total of 106 new shoulder injuries were reported during the 73,546 hours of competition and training.

Worrying results

This is more than twice as much as previously reported in the same age group. Additionally, 20% had handball-related shoulder pain at the start of the study and 24% had experienced handball-related shoulder pain earlier in their career.

“It is worrying that so many players have or develop shoulder problems at such an early age, and so it is crucial that we know more about why players develop these injuries, so that we can reduce them. number”, says Merete Møller.

The study shows that the risk of shoulder injuries increases if the training and competition load is increased by more than 60% compared to the level of training and competition of the players during the previous four weeks.

“This means that if you play an average of five hours a week over a four-week period, you should play a maximum of eight hours over the following week. If you haven’t played more than two hours in the four last weeks, for example due to injury or illness, you should be more careful and not increase the competition and training load to more than 3.2 hours in the week you next feel you can train and play at full strength again,” says Merete Møller.

Training must be appropriate

The results also indicate that players with reduced shoulder strength or reduced control of their scapula are more vulnerable to shoulder injuries. These players had an increased risk of shoulder injuries if they increased their weekly level of training and competition by 20-60%.

“If a player with reduced strength or reduced scapula control plays an average of five hours per week over a four-week period, our study suggests that they should play a maximum of six to eight hours per week thereafter in comparison , ” says Merete Møller, and adds:

“At a time when there is much talk about the difficulty of the fixture list for senior players, it is important to remember that very many young handball players also have unreasonably difficult competition and training schedules, and that the adults around them, both parents and coaches, need to better adjust their competition and training load.”

In 1997, she became a double world champion at youth and national team level, and Merete Møller was called one of the greatest talents in Danish women’s handball. But the promising career did not last long. At the age of 21, she was already declared disabled as a handball player and has not played since. Today, she conducts research on handball injuries and ways to prevent them.

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Material provided by Aarhus University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.