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Lawyer Blog: Baltimore, MD

Wrestling with the Risks


Having been a wrestler in high school, the sport is near and dear to my heart. But the practice of wrestling does carry risks. (I myself had to switch to boxing after developing a back injury.) For example, in Ohio, a high school wrestler suffered a stroke while actively practicing for a national competition. And even pro wrestling (the WWE), which we all know has a large “for show” component to it, is being sued for brain trauma and similar injuries. So, even when wrestling is meant only as entertainment, brutal injuries can and do occur.

HS and College Wrestling Statistics

In a study done from 2000 to 2006 for ages 12 through 17, 152,710 wrestling injuries required a trip to the emergency department of a hospital. The injury rate for this period and age group amounted to 29.57 injuries per 1,000 wrestlers, or about a three percent injury rate. In other words, your average wrestler between the ages of 12 and 17 had a 3 in 100 chance of being injured badly enough to require emergency care.

During the 2005-2006 wrestling season, the injury rate was over twice as high for college wrestlers: 7.25 per 1,000.

Wrestling Injuries Both Mild and Severe

A wide range of injuries are possible when pursuing the sport of wrestling. Some of the more common mild injuries include:

  • Bruises and contusions
  • Sprains and strains, often of the wrist, elbow, or ankle
  • Skin infections from wounds and scratches that are not properly disinfected
  • Muscle soreness and overtraining
  • Dehydration from “trying to make weight,” which can become serious if carried too far.

The most common more serious/severe injuries from wrestling are:

  • Shoulder injuries, such as a rotator cuff tear, or shoulder separation or dislocation
  • Knee injuries, mostly to the ligaments of the knee joint, as well as meniscus tears
  • Elbow dislocations
  • Neck injuries, including strains, whiplash, and cervical fractures
  • Head injuries such as concussion, or even traumatic brain injury in severe cases.

Some consider skin infections and concussions, along with upper-extremity injuries like shoulder dislocations, to be the most serious problems in youth (pre-high school) wrestling. Among high schoolers, the most frequent injuries are:

  • Shoulder strains/sprains (8.5%)
  • Ankle strains/sprains (7.6%)
  • Knee strains/sprains (7.0%)
  • Trunk strains/sprains (6.0%)
  • Neck strains/sprains (5.4%)
  • Concussions (5.4%).

And, for those wrestling in college, those numbers are:

  • Knee strains/sprains (17.1%)
  • Shoulder strains/sprains (8.1%)
  • Shoulder dislocations/subluxations (8.1%)
  • Head/face lacerations (7.4%)
  • Ankle strains/sprains (7.0%)
  • Concussions (5.8%).

Preventing Injuries

The sport of wrestling requires strength coupled with flexibility and sufficient training in proper techniques. Here are some suggestions from the top wrestling coaches and the National Athletic Trainers Association for ways to help avoid wrestling injuries:

  • Improve your joint flexibility, especially for the shoulder, neck, lower back, hamstrings, and elbows.
  • Train with a qualified coach who employs only proper wrestling safety training.
  • Wear all recommended safety gear, including headgear and mouth guards, during practices, meets, and tournaments.
  • Do not use “slamming” moves or dangerous holds at any time.
  • Practice good nutrition and hydration and avoid extreme weight loss strategies.

And parents, here’s one suggestion for you: Make sure your school is a follower of the “when in doubt, sit them out” practice. This means that a visibly shaken or injured athlete is taken out of the game or meet in order to prevent further damage to them.

How Can We Help You?

Steven Heisler has been practicing law in Maryland since 1988. In 1996, however, he decided to focus exclusively on personal injury law. Why? Steve has a heart for helping people. He determined that his education and experience could best be put to use advocating for the rights of folks who were harmed through the negligent actions of others.

If your child or other loved one has been involved in a wrestling or other sport-related injury in which you suspect negligence, Baltimore personal injury attorney Steven Heisler can help you and your family obtain the justice you need. Strict state statutes of limitation mean that your time to file may be limited, so schedule a free, no-obligation consultation by contacting the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler at (410) 625-4878 today. Steven H. Heisler, The Injury Lawyer—committed to justice, and committed to you.