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Feel the burn, but be careful--weight training injuries have gone up

March 31, 2010 | 12:34 pm

Weight training can be great exercise, building muscle and helping to prevent bone loss. But as it's gotten more popular, injuries have increased, according to a new study.

EnenibgyResearchers examined data on emergency room cases involving weights. The study, published online in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, found that from 1990 to 2007 there were 25,335 weight training injuries in 100 U.S. hospitals with a 24-hour emergency department, which researchers correlate to about 970,801 injuries nationwide.

From 1996 to 2007 overall injuries increased 48.4%, with men sustaining the most injuries at 82.3%. But women weren’t exempt--although their numbers were smaller, their injury rate increased 63% from 1996 to 2002, signaling that their presence in the weight room is growing. People age 13 to 18 had the highest number of injuries, again indicating that more young people are strength training.

The upper trunk was the most commonly injured part of the body, followed by the lower trunk and hand. Women had more foot and leg injuries compared with men. The most frequently diagnosed injuries were sprains and strains, followed by soft tissue damage.

As to how these injuries happened, the No. 1 reason was dropping a weight on some part of the body. Coming in second was a body part being smashed or crushed between weights, and third was hitting yourself. Other methods of harm included overexertion, loss of balance or falling, and lifting or pulling. The vast majority of equipment-related injuries--90.4%--happened while using free weights.

Though these statistics may make you think lifting weights is an accident waiting to happen, injuries can be prevented, said Dawn Comstock, the study's co-author and principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. In a news release, she said, "Before beginning a weight training program, it is important that people of all ages consult with a health professional, such as a doctor or athletic trainer, to create a safe training program based on their age and capabilities. Getting proper instruction on how to use weight lifting equipment and the proper technique for lifts, as well as providing trained supervision for youths engaging in weight training, will also reduce the risk of injury."

Nationwide also offers this video about the study.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times