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Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018 Apr;28(4):1412-1423. doi: 10.1111/sms.13047. Epub 2018 Feb 19.

The prevalence and severity of health problems in youth elite sports: A 6-month prospective cohort study of 320 athletes.

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Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway.


Little is known regarding the overall health of youth elite athletes. Our aim was to describe the prevalence and severity of health problems in a cohort of youth elite athletes representing a variety of endurance, team, and technical sports. Elite sport athletes (N = 260, 16.2 years) from different Sport Academy High Schools in Norway, and a group of their teammates (N = 60, 16.4 years) attending regular high schools, were included in the study. The Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre (OSTRC) questionnaire on health problems was used to self-report injuries and illnesses for 26 weeks. At any given time, an average of 43% [95% CI: 37%-49%] of the elite sport athletes had some form of health problem and 25% [20%-31%] had substantial health problems. The prevalence of health problems was similar between the elite team sport athletes and their teammates, except for substantial injuries (22% [16%-30%] vs 10% [5%-20%]). Endurance sport athletes reported more illnesses (23% [15%-35%]) than technical and team sport athletes (10% [5%-20%] and 8% [4%-14%]). In contrast, technical and team sport athletes reported more injuries (36% [95% CI: 25-48] and 37% [95% CI 29-45]) compared to endurance sport athletes (15% [8%-25%]). The total impact of health problems was roughly split in thirds between overuse injuries (37%), acute injuries (34%), and illnesses (30%). This is the first prospective study to present self-reported injury and illness data in a large heterogeneous group of youth elite athletes, documenting a substantial impact of both injuries and illnesses on the health of this population.


Illness; adolescents; epidemiology; injury prevention; overuse injuries; sport academy high school; sporting injuries; subelite athletes

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