Be ready for injuries from weight training

ED nurses are seeing increasing numbers of patients injured from weight training, says a new report.1 The study found that more than 970,000 weight training-related injuries were treated in EDs between 1990 and 2007. These increased almost 50% during that time period, according to data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"Given our findings that there were significant increases in number of weightlifting injuries among females and individuals over 45 years of age during the study period, ED nurses can expect to treat a more diverse population with weightlifting injuries," says Dawn Comstock, PhD, one of the study's authors and a principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH.

However, individuals presenting with weight lifting injuries still are most likely to be males aged 13 to 35. The most commonly injured body regions were the upper trunk, lower trunk, and hand. The most common diagnoses were sprains, strains, and soft tissue injuries.

"However, patterns of injury differed by age," says Comstock. Overexertion injuries were more common in older patients.

Individuals 12 and younger were more likely to present with hand and foot injuries, with lacerations and fractures or dislocations from having weights fall on them. "Due to a lack of data, recommendations regarding the appropriate age to begin weightlifting have previously been based on anecdotal evidence and gut feelings," says Comstock. "Currently, most agree that like any other form of exercise, weightlifting is a safe activity for children and youth." However, it must be done in moderation, with proper supervision, and proper training regarding lifting techniques and use of weights and weight machines, adds Comstock.

Whatever type of injury the patient presents with, you have an opportunity to prevent future weight-lifting injuries. "Use the ED visit as a 'teachable moment,'" says Comstock. "Speak with the injured individual and/or their family about weight lifting safety."


  1. Kerr ZY, Collins, CL, Comstock RD. Epidemiology of weight training-related injuries presenting to United States emergency departments, 1990 to 2007. Am J Sports Med 2010; 38:765-771.


For more information on weight training injuries in the ED, contact:

  • Barbara Abdalla, RN, BSN, CPN, Administrative Clinical Leader, Emergency Department, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH. E-mail:
  • R. Dawn Comstock, PhD, Associate Professor, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH. Phone: (614) 355-2847. Fax: (614) 722-2448. E-mail:

Clinical Tip

Athletic injuries? Look for dehydration

In addition to strains and sprains in weight-training injuries, dehydration and heat exhaustion also might occur, says Barbara Abdalla, RN, BSN, CPN, administrative clinical leader in the Emergency Department at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH. Subtle signs of dehydration include increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, and headaches, adds Abdalla.

"This occurs most often at the beginning of August when many high schools start conditioning," says Abdalla. "Some athletes train to the point that they can pass out. In very rare circumstances, a symptom can be blood in urine. This is caused by muscle breakdown from strenuous exercise."