Home 6:49 AM Health&Nutrition

Pre-competition habits and injuries in Taekwondo athletes Part 2

Pre-competition habits and injuries in Taekwondo athletes

Part 2

By: Mohsen Kazemi author, Heather Shearer and Young Su Choung

Over the past decade, there has been heightened interest in injury rates sustained by martial arts athletes, and more specifically, Taekwondo athletes. Despite this interest, there is a paucity of research on pre-competition habits and training of these athletes. The purpose of this pilot study was to assess training characteristics, competition preparation habits, and injury profiles of Taekwondo athletes.


Weight cycling

Weight cycling is a term used to describe rapid weight loss following self-induced food limitation and/or dehydration. Both gradual (seasonal) and rapid (weekly) weight reduction cycles are used by athletes, and have been investigated for potential effects on nutrition and performance [9]. These cycles are used in various sports such as judo, rowing, wrestling, and boxing in order to make a weight category. Like many of these sports, Taekwondo consists of repeated-effort, high intensity physical demands. In addition to this, Taekwondo competition is structured in a similar fashion to boxing and rowing in that athletes are required to meet weight requirements in order to compete. Although there is no known reported research about weight cycling in Taekwondo, it is the primary author's experience (holding a fifth degree black belt in WTF Taekwondo and practicing Taekwondo for more than twenty-five years) that it is widely practiced in the sport. The WTF has various weight classes depending on competition level [7]. Table 1 illustrates the four WTF weight classes per gender for Olympic competition, which were also the categories used at the tournament for the present study. Although the World Taekwondo Federation has eight distinct weight classes per gender for all competitions and championships except for the Olympic Games, no rulings have been implemented to address weight cycling in the sport.


Table 1

World Taekwondo Federation Olympic Weight Classes for Men and Women




Less than 58 kg

Less than 49 kg

Between 58 to 68 kg

Between 49 to 57 kg

Between 68 to 80 kg

Between 57 to 67 kg

Over 80 kg

Over 67 kg


To date there has been no research investigating the perceived benefit of weight cycling among Taekwondo athletes and this is an area in which much work should be undertaken. Due to the similarities between boxing and Taekwondo, with respect to competition weigh-ins, it may be possible to infer that Taekwondo athlete's perceptions of this technique may be similar. One study examining weight cycling among boxers reported that all the subjects felt it necessary to lose weight prior to competition and that it improved their performance [10]. Athletes using this weight control technique may be mistaken in thinking that an advantage will be gained over the opponent competing at his/her natural weight. To this point the research findings into the effect of food and fluid restriction has been equivocal [10]. There is also a belief that nutrients and strength can be restored by eating and drinking in the period between the weigh-in and the competition. Several authors have reported various techniques for rapid weight loss. A few strategies include dieting, restricting food and fluid intake, diuretic use, long runs, skipping, cycling, saunas, and exercising in rubber/plastic suits.


Psychological state / support

Despite athletes' perceptions of the benefits of weight cycling, there are both physiological and psychological side effects. Using the Profile of Mood States-A (POMS-A), anger, confusion, depression, fatigue, tension, and vigor were measured among weight cycling amateur boxers [10]. The study reported that rapid weight loss was associated with significantly higher scores on anger, fatigue, and tension, with decreased vigor. The authors concluded that weight cycling resulted in negative mood and debilitated performance among their respondents. It is important for parents, coaches, and significant others to recognize these signs and address them appropriately.


The idea of participating in competitive situations can be daunting for some individuals. Intense pressure, anxiety, and somatic manifestations may result. For those in athletic competition, it is vital to recognize and address these sources of stress in order to produce more successful outcomes.


To date there is a lack of research in the areas of weight cycling and its perceived benefits among Taekwondo athletes. There is also limited research in the areas of social support and injury profiles in Taekwondo athletes outside of competition. This pilot study is an initial step towards increasing our knowledge in these areas. The purpose of the present study was to assess training characteristics, competition preparation habits and injury profiles of Taekwondo athletes.



End of Part 2