Purpose: This prospective injury surveillance study was conducted to better understand the types of and risk factors of injuries sustained by athletes with disabilities competing in adapted winter sports at the elite level.
Methods: Detailed information was collected on all injuries evaluated by polyclinic or venue medical personnel during the operational 20-d period of the 2002 Winter Paralympics.
Results: A total of 39 injuries involving 9% of the Paralympic athletes were recorded in the injury registry. Most of these injuries were of acute, traumatic onset and involved the disciplines of alpine skiing and sledge hockey. Sprains (32%), fractures (21%), and strains and lacerations (14% each) represented the most common diagnoses. Of the recorded injuries, eight (21%) resulted in time lost from training or competition.
Conclusions: The injury patterns observed among winter Paralympians in this study are not appreciably different from able-bodied athletes competing in similar disciplines, although in many instances the risk factors for sport-specific injury appear to be unique to disabled or adapted competition. Our preliminary observations suggest that several of the more severe injuries were potentially preventable. Ongoing data collection by the International Paralympic Committee should enable feasible injury prevention strategies to be designed and implemented.