Masters Athletes: are they hurt more often? (Rugby union, soccer and touch football)

Joe Walsh, Mike Climstein, Ian Heazlewood, Kent Adams, Mark de Beliso, Stephen Burke, Jyrki Kettunen

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


    Introduction: There is growing evidence that physical activity across the lifespan is beneficial to health, however older athletes may display an increased range of pathologies and physiological changes due to the aging process. This may result in increased injury incidence when participating in or preparing for highly competitive sport. The World Masters Games is the largest international sporting competition in terms of participant numbers. In 2009, the SWMG (SWMG) attracted 28,089 competitors who represented 95 countries competing in 28 sports. Despite these large numbers, this cohort of athletes remains proportionately under investigated. The aim of this study was to investigate whether there was greater incidence of injury in this population than comparative sporting populations. It was hypothesized that despite greater age, there would not be a greater incidence of injury in this masters football population than for younger athletes competing in other amateur and elite sports.

    Methods: This study investigated the 2009 SWMG football code (soccer, touch football, rugby union) athletes as a sub-sample of the SWMG population. An online survey created using Limesurveytm was utilized to investigate participants’ demographics and medical health histories. Electronic invitations were sent to masters games athletes who provided a valid email address.

    Results and discussion: 931 masters athletes (age 29–72, mean = 47.6, 52.5% male, 47.5% female) participated. Analysing injury demographics indicated 23.1% of respondents suffered an injury in the four years of preparation/exercise training for the SWMG. Comparison to other research indicated injuries were significantly lower in incidence than those for numerous studies on amateur athletes in football codes (all p < 0.01) as well as for several studies on athletes competing in professional football codes (all p < 0.01). Causation was also considered, namely it was possible that some masters athletes did not register to compete in the SWMG due to injuries sustained in preparation for the tournament. Using logic, any causation of this nature however was assumed to be slight. The possibility, that athletes with some inherent ability to resist injury were able to continue physical activity across the lifespan and were therefore more likely to be involved in masters sport was also discussed.

    Conclusion: Despite benefits of exercise, it is possible that due to age related changes, increased risk of injury will be associated with highly competitive sport for the aging athlete. For football athletes at the SWMG, incidence of injury during the years of preparation is significantly less than for many other competing football populations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e76-e77
    Number of pages2
    JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
    Issue numberSupplement 1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
    Event2011 Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport: Optimising health and fitness–Participation, prevention and performance -
    Duration: 19 Oct 201122 Oct 2011


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