Injuries in Collegiate Wrestling

Abstract & Commentary

Synopsis: Wrestling injuries, although common, typically are not serious agrees with previous reports in the literature.

Source: Jarret GJ et al. Injuries in collegiate wrestling. Am J Sports Med 1998;26:674-680

Reviewing injuries statistics to gain insight into injury data such as the severity and frequency of occurrence, mechanism of injury, and the distribution of injuries within a team and within the season is an essential first step in analyzing the adequacy of injury prevention programs and the need for restructuring existing programs or creating new programs.

"Injuries in Collegiate Wrestling" is an 11-year (1985 to 1996) review of wrestling injuries within NCAA schools as reported by the NCAA's Injury Surveillance System, a voluntary injury collection system sampling 15-20% of member schools representing all three divisions and all four geographic regions of the NCAA. During the period surveyed, 800,000 athletic exposures* occurred with an injury rate of 9.6 injuries per thousand athletic exposures. This injury rate was second only to spring football. The knee was the most commonly injured joint. Competition had a significantly higher injury rate than practice. Preseason and regular-season rates were greater than postseason rates. Most injuries were not serious with only 37.6% resulting in a week or more missed from sport and only 6.3% resulting in surgery. There was only one catastrophic nonfatal injury.

Comment by Letha Y. Griffin, M.D.:

The authors' conclusion that wrestling injuries, although common, typically are not serious agrees with previous reports in the literature.1,2 However, these data were collected prior to the infamous 1997-1998 wrestling season during which there were three wrestling fatalities-all of which have been linked with fluid restriction and other dehydration tactics used by wrestlers to "make weight" prior to competition.

Since the occurrence of these tragic deaths, multiple meetings with various governing bodies and safeguard committees within the NCAA and the wrestling community have led to the NCAA adoption for the 1998-1999 competition year of a Wrestling Weight Certification Program which includes rule changes and a nutrition education program. The program is based on the guiding principles that follow:

Any and all weight control practices that would potentially risk the health of the participant should be eliminated from wrestling.

The focus on the sport should be on competition, not weight control.

Recommendations should be practical, effective, and enforceable.

Rule changes implemented as a part of this program include:

Changing weight classes to 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184, 197, and 285,

Establishing for each wrestler early in the season a permanent, healthy weight class,

Scheduling weigh-ins as close to match time as possible, including multiple weigh-ins for each day of a multiple day tournament,

Eliminating equipment and tactics used for rapid dehydration such as self-induced vomiting, laxatives, saunas, steam rooms, rubber suits, etc., and

Requiring CPR and first aid training for all wrestling coaches.

For additional information contact the NCAA wrestling rules committee liaison at 913-339-1906.

* An athletic-exposure is the unit of risk in the NCAA Injury Surveillance System and is defined as one athlete participating in one practice or competition.


1. Estwanik JJ III, Bergfeld JA, Collins HR, et al: Injuries in Interscholastic Wrestling. Physician Sportsmed 8(3):111-121, 1980.

2. Roy SP. Intercollegiate Wrestling Injuries. Physician Sportsmed 7(11):83-94, 1979.