An examination of training load, match activities, and health problems in Norwegian youth elite handball players over one competitive season
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionFrontiers in Sports and Active Living. 2021, 3(2021), Artikkel 635103. 10.3389/fspor.2021.635103
Talent development is integral to the policy and organizational practice of competitive sport, but has also been associated with excessive amounts of training and competition, and athlete injuries and illnesses. The lack of available prospective data on the training and match activities of youth athletes and their health problems is therefore of concern. The aim of this study was twofold: (a) to examine the amount and frequency of training load, match activities, injury and illness incidence and prevalence among Norwegian youth elite handball players over the course of the 2018-2019 competitive season; and (b) to explore whether the injury rates are related to the sex or competition level of players, or their membership of the youth international team. We recruited 205 handball players (64% female, 36% male), aged 15 to 18 years (17.2 years ± 0.9) from five different sport school programs in southeast Norway. Data were collected daily from September 2018 to May 2019, during the competitive handball season. The variables included: types of athlete activities, the number of activities, the rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and the duration of training and matches. Injury and illness data were collected weekly using the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTRC) questionnaire. The mean number of matches per week per player was 0.9 ± 1.29; the number of weekly training events was 6.1 ± 4.4; and the mean weekly session RPE was 986 ± 1 412 arbitrary units. The players reported a total of 472 injuries, and the mean number of injuries per player was 2.3 ± 2.9. The results demonstrated a 53% weekly injury prevalence, of which 38% were categorized as substantial injuries. Male players and players who participated at the highest level of senior competition and/or the youth international team reported significantly lower weekly incidences of health problems, compared to other players. Our findings showed that players enrolled in sport school programs are exposed to high training and competition loads, and that both general and substantial health problems are common. The potential implications for talent development and future research are discussed.
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