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Pre-competition habits and injuries in Taekwondo athletes Part 1

Pre-competition habits and injuries in Taekwondo athletes

Part 1

By: Dr. 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.


A retrospective survey of Canadian male and female Taekwondo athletes competing in a national tournament was conducted. Competitors at a Canadian national level tournament were given a comprehensive survey prior to competition. Items on training characteristics, diet, and injuries sustained during training and competition were included. Questionnaires were distributed to 60 athletes.


A response rate of 46.7% was achieved. Of those that responded, 54% dieted prior to competition, and 36% dieted and exercised pre-competition. Sixty-four percent of the athletes practiced between 4–6 times per week, with 54% practicing 2 hours per session. Lower limb injuries were the most common (46.5%), followed by upper extremity (18%), back (10%), and head (3.6%). The majority of injuries consisted of sprains/strains (45%), followed by contusions, fractures, and concussions. More injuries occurred during training, including 59% of first injuries.


More research needs to be conducted to further illustrate the need for appropriate regulations on weight cycling and injury prevention.



Injury Rate, Weight Class, Rapid Weight Loss, Back Injury, Weight Cycling, Background


The martial arts have their beginnings in the Orient but more specifically the common styles seen in Western society are from Japan, China, and Korea. Taekwondo, which originated in Korea more than 1000 years ago, is more sport than self-defense oriented [1]. In 2000, Taekwondo became recognized as an official sport at the Sydney Olympics. Taekwondo is a full-contact free-sparring sport which awards points for head contact. As such, there has been increased interest in injury rates in the sport, especially relating to head injuries. Although much of the research focuses on injury rates, a very little examination into pre-competition habits and training has been conducted. The current authors felt that certain key areas needed to be addressed. These included training habits, injuries, dietary practices, and social support.


Training habits and injury

Most martial arts athletes practice between two to four times per week [1]. However, like in any sport, the frequency and hours of martial arts training can vary widely depending on the athletic and competitive level of the individual. Training may be defined as a routine or process undertaken by athletes to further enhance their skill. Specific training may vary among each athlete, but there is usually a general format which is followed. Training classes often begin with a brief warm-up or stretching routine. This may then be followed by kicking drills, self-defense drills, training in patterns (forms) and sparring [1]. Taekwondo athletes have a wide variety of protective equipment available, although its use varies greatly, and concerns have been raised that the equipment often protects the attacker more than the defender [2]. Besides the regular training routine, students also participate in full-contact tournaments.


At the time of data collection at the tournament in question, one point was awarded for any strike from the waist upward. The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) rules and regulations for Olympic competition were used for this tournament [7]. For the purpose of this study, an athlete was considered injured if the following occurred: 1) any circumstance which forced the athlete to leave the competition or training session; 2) any circumstance for which the referee or athlete had to stop the competition; or 3) any circumstance for which the athlete requested medical attention [6]. Injuries occur in both training and competition, and trauma to the lower extremity and head are the most common sites reported [6]. A distinction can be made between overuse and traumatic forms of injury; although in reality they could be considered as points along one continuum. Overuse injuries may occur following continued or accumulated microtrauma to a structure or body area [8]. Traumatic injuries are the result of physical trauma or external force to a certain region leading to a diminished functional ability [8]. In the current pilot study, no distinction was made between these forms of injury although it would be an interesting feature to examine in future research. The majority of research about Taekwondo injuries has examined injuries sustained during competition. Even so, it has been noted that up to 60% of injuries are not reported [2]. There are a variety of explanations for this, including poor recall, lack of importance placed on the injury, and unwillingness to disappoint trainers.


End of Part 1