Among youth handball players, their risk of shoulder injuries could increase if their training and competition loads are increased by more than 60% compared to their levels of training and competition during the previous 4 weeks.

This suggestion is the result of a PhD project conducted by former elite handball player and PhD Merete Møller in collaboration with researchers from Aarhus University, the University of Southern Denmark, and the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, which was published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In their study, the team compiled data from almost 700 youth handball players aged 14 to 18 who were monitored through the 31 weeks of a handball season.

During the weeks in question the players provided information via text message on e.g. their injuries, amount of training and matches. A total of 106 new shoulder injuries were reported during the 73,546 hours of competition and training time, according to a media release from Aarhus University.

The researchers note that the injury results are worrying, as the number of injuries is more than twice the amount as previously reported in the same age group. In addition, they note, 20% had handball-related shoulder pain when the study began, and 24% had experienced handball-related shoulder pain earlier in their career.

“This means that if you play an average of 5 hours a week over a period of 4 weeks, then you should play a maximum of 8 hours during the next week. If you have not played for more than 2 hours over the past 4 weeks, for example due to injury or illness, you should be more cautious and not increase the competition and training load to more than 3.2 hours in the week where you next feel you can train and play at full strength again,” Møller says in the release.

Another suggestion from the results is that players with reduced shoulder strength or reduced control of their shoulder blade were more vulnerable to shoulder injuries. Such players had an increased risk of shoulder injuries if they increased their weekly level of training and competition by 20% to 60%

“If a player with either reduced strength or reduced control of the shoulder blade plays an average of 5 hours a week for a 4-week period, our study suggests that they should play a maximum of 6 to 8 hours per week afterwards by comparison,” Møller states.

“In a time where there is a lot of talk about how hard the fixture list is for senior players, it is important to remember that very many youth handball players also have an unreasonably hard competition and training program, and that the adults around them, both parents and trainers, must be better to adjust their competition and training load,” she adds.

[Source(s): British Journal of Sports Medicine, Science Daily]