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Incidence and Characteristics of Time-Loss Injuries in Competitive Fencing: A Prospective, 5-Year Study of National Competitions

Harmer, Peter A PhD, ATC

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: March 2008 - Volume 18 - Issue 2 - p 137-142
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e318161548d
Original Research

Objective: To estimate the incidence of time-loss injuries in competitive fencing and to characterize these injuries regarding type and location.

Design: A 5-year prospective study.

Setting: Data were collected at all national events organized by the U.S. Fencing Association (USFA) during the 2001-2006 seasons.

Participants: A total of 78,223 male and female competitors, ranging in age from 8 to above 70, participated in various events in the targeted competitions.

Methods: Experienced certified athletic trainers (ATC) evaluated and documented all incidents that resulted in withdrawal from competition. Exposure data [athlete exposures (AE)] were calculated from the number of bouts completed in each competition.

Main Outcome Measures: Rate of time-loss injury was calculated per 1000AE. Frequency distributions for types and locations of injuries were used to characterize time-loss injuries.

Results: One hundred eighty-four time-loss injuries were reported during the study, for an overall rate of 0.3 per 1000 AE (95% CI: 0.26-0.35). Of these, 26.1% were recorded as strains and 25.5% were identified as sprains. The knee was the most frequently injured location (19.6%), followed by the thigh (15.2%) and the ankle (13%). Overall, 60% of the injuries were in the lower extremities.

Conclusions: The rate of time-loss injury in competitive fencing is low. Although there are differences in the distribution of types and location of time-loss injuries by sex and discipline, the predominant characteristics (sprain/strain in the lower extremities) are similar to other sports with ballistic action in stop-start, rapid change-of-direction activity.

From the Department of Exercise Science-Sports Medicine, Willamette University, Salem, OR.

Submitted for publication April 11, 2007; accepted November 6, 2007.

Reprints: Peter A. Harmer, PhD, MPH, ATC, FACSM, Exercise Science-Sports Medicine, Willamette University, Salem, OR 97401 (e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.