Shoulder injuries are frequently caused by athletic activities that involve excessive,
repetitive and overhead motion. With extra training sessions in the sports hall and more matches on
the program, youth handball players risk getting shoulder injuries.
This is the result of new research from Aarhus University.
An additional training session on Thursdays and a weekday match in
the local cup tournament - in addition to regular training three times a
week and tournament matches on Sunday. This would be a typical week for
many youth handball players.
‘With extra training sessions in the sports hall and more matches on the program, youth handball players risk getting shoulder injuries.’
But a sudden increase in the amount of training and matches has
crucial importance for children and young people getting shoulder
injuries. This is shown by a new PhD project from Aarhus University,
which is the first study globally to have looked into the correlation
between load from both training and competition and the development of
The project has been carried out by the former elite handball player
and PhD Merete Møller in collaboration with researchers from Aarhus
University, the University of Southern Denmark and the Oslo Sports
Trauma Research Center.
Data from almost 700 youth handball players aged 14-18 years who
were monitored through the 31 weeks of a handball season forms the basis
for the results, which have now been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine
During the weeks in question the players provided information via
text message on e.g. their injuries, amount of training and matches. A
total of 106 new shoulder injuries were reported during the 73,546 hours
of competition and training time.
This is more than twice as many than previously reported in the same
age group. In addition, 20% had handball-related shoulder
pain when the study began and 24% had experienced
handball-related shoulder pain earlier in their career.
"It is worrying that so many players either have or develop shoulder
problems at such an early age, and it is therefore crucial that we
learn more about why players develop these injuries, so that we can
reduce the number," says Merete Møller.
The study shows that the risk of shoulder injuries increases if
training and competition load is increased by more than 60 per by the
cent compared to the level of training and competition for players over
the previous four weeks.
"This means that if you play an average of five hours a week over a
period of four weeks, then you should play a maximum of eight hours
during the next week. If you have not played for more than two hours
over the past four weeks, for example due to injury or illness, you
should be more cautious and not increase the competition and training
load to more than 3.2 hours in the week where you next feel you can
train and play at full strength again," says Merete Møller.
Training must be adjusted
The results also point to players with reduced shoulder strength or
reduced control of their shoulder blade being more vulnerable to
shoulder injuries. These players had an increased risk of shoulder
injuries if they increased their weekly level of training and
competition by 20 to 60%.
"If a player with either reduced strength or reduced control of the
shoulder blade plays an average of five hours a week for a four-week
period, our study suggests that they should play a maximum of six to
eight hours per week afterwards by comparison," says Merete Møller, and
"In a time where there is a lot of talk about how hard the fixture
list is for senior players, it is important to remember that very many
youth handball players also have an unreasonably hard competition and
training program, and that the adults around them, both parents and
trainers, must be better to adjust their competition and training load."
In 1997, she became double World Champion at both youth and national
team level, and Merete Møller was called one of the biggest talents in
Danish women's handball. But the promising career did not last long. At
the age of 21 she was already declared to be invalid as a handball
player and she has not played since. Today she carries out research into
handball injuries and how to prevent them.