Track and Field

01 Overview

Track and field consists of many events that include running, jumping, and throwing. Events that contain explosive actions such as sprints, hurdles, and jumps can result in more acute injuries, while events that require more endurance such as middle or long distance running can result in chronic and overuse injury. This ancient and present-day Olympic sport is overseen locally by BC Athletics.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Ankle injuries, such as sprains, strains and stress fractures are among the most common injuries in track and field.

Knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, are among the most common injuries in track and field.

Hamstring strains are common injuries in track and field.

Lower leg injuries are common in track and field.

Lower back injuries, while less common than leg injuries, occur in pole vaulting, and throwing events such as shot put, discus and hammer throw.

Shoulder injuries, while less common than leg injuries, can occur in throwing events such as shot put, discus and hammer throw.

Elbow injuries, while less common than leg injuries, can occur in throwing events such as shot put, discus and hammer.

02 Injury Statistics

The risk for injury in track and field sports differs depending on the specific event. The most common injury sites for high school and college/university athletes are the knee and ankle. Most of the injuries seen in track and field events are overuse injuries as a result of running. Among high school athletes, injuries related to throwing represented 6.7% of all track and field injuries among girls and 5.9% of all injuries among boys. This included injuries to the shoulder, elbow and lower back. Lower body injuries such as meniscal tears to the knee and ankle sprains are also common in shot put, discus and hammer throw.

Approximately 20% of foot, ankle and lower leg injuries, 30% of knee injuries, and 10% of hamstring and thigh injuries are sustained in track and field by adolescents as compared to other aged athletes.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

03 Risk Factors

  • Previous History of Injury

    Having a previous injury increases the risk of subsequent injury during track and field, especially without correct rehabilitation and strengthening of the original injury site.

  • Technique

    Improper technique can increase your risk of injury, especially during explosive events such as sprint, hurdles, and jumps. Injury prevalence and incidence has been reported to be higher in cases when training is not supervised by coaching staff and when athletes have not mastered the technical skills.

  • Overtraining

    Overtraining can increase the risk of injury in track and field. Overuse injuries are among the most common types of track and field injuries.

  • Age

    Elite track and field athletes over 30 years of age have a higher risk of injury in competition.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Use the onset of pain or symptoms as a guide for participating in, or refraining from, track and field events that may cause overuse injuries. Muscle soreness is expected with a change in duration or intensity; however, any joint pain should not last or get worse 24 hours after exercise, as it indicates that the body is not properly prepared for the chosen speed, distance, and other track and field event-specific factors (e.g., shot put, hammer, discus and javelin weight; pole length; hurdle and pole vault bar height, etc.).

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Strength and flexibility exercises for the ankle and knee can reduce your risk of injury.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the thigh, knee, and ankle. If you participate in strength-power track and field events, adopt strength training injuries designed to prevent injuries to the back and shoulder. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed specific exercises in video and PDF form to help prevent injuries.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to track and field.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for players and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Gradual Transition
    If you are a new track and field athlete and competing in events featuring running, gradually transitioning into running from low-impact activities can minimize your risk for injury. For example, this includes moving from incline walking to a slow jog, gradually increasing speed (on a treadmill or outdoors) until running becomes comfortable.

    For all track and field events, taking a break between training days gives your body time to recover and helps you to assess your current training load. Increasing your intensity (e.g., distance or speed by 5-10% for running track and field events, or force for strength-power track and field events) each week allows the body to rest while still increasing intensity.

    Running Form
    Addressing overstriding is considered one of the most beneficial biomechanical strategies for improving running technique. Overstriding occurs when the distance between where your foot hits the ground and your centre of mass is considered to be too long. Reduce overstriding by taking short, quick steps, which will increase knee flexing to move the foot strike closer to your centre of mass. A 5% to 10% gradual increase in running cadence (number of steps per minute) is an appropriate way to reduce overstriding, improving biomechanics and leading to a smoother and safer running style.

    Improve running biomechanics by:

    • Obtaining feedback on your running form from a coach or trainer, if applicable, or by watching yourself run in a mirror or on recorded footage.
    • Using a metronome or similar device to improve running cadence.

    Equipment
    Rotate your footwear. It is important to alternate between two or more different pairs of running shoes during your training to reduce your risk of injury. This better disperses the physical load on the muscles, joints, and bones and reduces excessive force to one area of the body.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Track and field can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Strength and flexibility exercises for the ankle and knee can reduce the risk of injury.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the thigh, knee, and ankle. Athletes who participate in strength-power track and field events should adopt strength training injuries designed to prevent injuries to the back and shoulder. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed specific exercises in video and PDF form to help prevent injuries.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to track and field.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Gradual Transition
    If the athlete is new to track and field and competing in events featuring running, gradually transitioning into running from low-impact activities can minimize risk of injury. This includes moving from incline walking to a slow jog, progressively increasing speed (on a treadmill or outdoors) until running becomes comfortable.

    For all track and field events, taking a break between training days gives the body time to recover and helps to assess the current training load. Increasing intensity (e.g., distance or speed by 5-10% for running track and field events, or force for strength-power track and field events) each week allows the body to rest while still increasing intensity.

    Running Form
    Addressing overstriding is considered one of the most beneficial biomechanical strategies for improving running technique. Overstriding occurs when the distance between where the foot hits the ground and the centre of mass is considered to be too long. Overstriding can be reduced by taking short, quick steps, which will increase knee flexing to move the foot strike closer to the runner’s centre of mass. A 5% to 10% gradual increase in running cadence (number of steps per minute) is an appropriate way to reduce overstriding, improving biomechanics and leading to a smoother and safer running style.

    Improve running biomechanics by:

    • Giving feedback on the athlete’s running form, and/or by recommending that the athletes watch themselves run in a mirror or on recorded footage.
    • Using a metronome or similar device to improve running cadence.

    Equipment
    Encourage athletes to rotate their footwear. It is important to alternate between two or more different pairs of running shoes during training to reduce risk of injury. This better disperses the physical load on the muscles, joints, and bones and reduces excessive force to one area of the body.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Track and field can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where people may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Strength and flexibility exercises for the ankle and knee can reduce the risk of injury.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the thigh, knee, and ankle. Athletes who participate in strength-power track and field events should adopt strength training injuries designed to prevent injuries to the back and shoulder. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed specific exercises in video and PDF form to help prevent injuries.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to track and field.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Gradual Transition
    If the athlete is new to track and field and competing in events featuring running, gradually transitioning into running from low-impact activities can minimize risk of injury. This includes moving from incline walking to a slow jog, gradually increasing speed (on a treadmill or outdoors) until running becomes comfortable.

    For all track and field events, taking a break between training days gives the body time to recover and helps to assess your current training load. Increasing intensity (e.g., distance or speed by 5-10% for running track and field events, or force for strength-power track and field events) each week allows the body to rest while still increasing intensity.

    Running Form
    Addressing overstriding is considered one of the most beneficial biomechanical strategies for improving running technique. Overstriding occurs when the distance between where the foot hits the ground and the centre of mass is considered to be too long. Overstriding can be reduced by taking short, quick steps, which will increase knee flexing to move the foot strike closer to the runner’s centre of mass. A 5% to 10% gradual increase in running cadence (number of steps per minute) is an appropriate way to reduce overstriding, improving biomechanics and leading to a smoother and safer running style.

    Athletes can improve running biomechanics by:

    • Receiving feedback on their running form, and/or by watching themselves run in a mirror or on recorded footage.
    • Using a metronome or similar device to improve running cadence.

    Equipment
    Encourage athletes to rotate their footwear. It is important to alternate between two or more different pairs of running shoes during training to reduce risk of injury. This better disperses the physical load on the muscles, joints, and bones and reduces excessive force to one area of the body.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Track and field can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where people may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing track and field injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to players, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured players are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to running to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Strength and flexibility exercises for the ankle and knee can reduce the risk of injury.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into training programs at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Recommend that your patients adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the thigh, knee, and ankle. Athletes who participate in strength-power track and field events should adopt strength training injuries designed to prevent injuries to the back and shoulder. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed specific exercises in video and PDF form to help prevent injuries.

    For more information, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to track and field.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Gradual Transition
    If the athlete is new to track and field and competing in events featuring running, gradually transitioning into running from low-impact activities can minimize risk of injury. This includes moving from incline walking to a slow jog, gradually increasing speed (on a treadmill or outdoors) until running becomes comfortable.

    For all track and field events, taking a break between training days gives the body time to recover and helps to assess your current training load. Increasing intensity (e.g., distance or speed by 5-10% for running track and field events, or force for strength-power track and field events) each week allows the body to rest while still increasing intensity.

    Running Form
    Addressing overstriding is considered one of the most beneficial biomechanical strategies for improving running technique. Overstriding occurs when the distance between where the foot hits the ground and the centre of mass is considered to be too long. Overstriding can be reduced by taking short, quick steps, which will increase knee flexing to move the foot strike closer to the runner’s centre of mass. A 5% to 10% gradual increase in running cadence (number of steps per minute) is an appropriate way to reduce overstriding, improving biomechanics and leading to a smoother and safer running style.

    Athletes can improve running biomechanics by:

    • Receiving feedback on their running form from a coach, and/or by recommending that the athletes watch themselves run in a mirror or on recorded footage.
    • Using a metronome or similar device to improve running cadence.

    Equipment
    Encourage athletes to rotate their footwear. It is important to alternate between two or more different pairs of running shoes during training to reduce risk of injury. This better disperses the physical load on the muscles, joints, and bones and reduces excessive force to one area of the body.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Track and field is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.