Injuries in Taekwondo Athletes
E. Zetou, A. Komninakidou*, F.
Mountaki, P. Malliou
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, Democritus
University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece.
*Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, Aristotle
University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Address for correspondence:
Department of Physical
Education and Sport Sciences,
Democritus University of Thrace,
Tel: 030 6945773762.
The purpose of this study
record the injury rate per athlete,
the severity of injuries, the types and mechanisms that caused them, as
well as whether they occurred during training or in competition and
which were the ways that they were confronted. 118 Greek Taekwondo
athletes (64 males and 54 females) who participated in a Taekwondo
national division Championship, age 21.45 (SD=3.30) also
participated in this study. A questionnaire survey was used for data
collection purposes and the interviews were conducted on a personal
level. The 118 Taekwondo athletes (94.5 response rate) reported 780
injuries, during a total exposure time of 1089 h for 3 years,
representing an overall incidence of 6.6 injuries per athlete (2.2 per
year). The majority of the injuries were categorized as contusion
followed by sprains of the foot (23.7%) and the knee (13.6%). Most
injuries (58.1%) were classified as being of moderate severity. Most
injuries occurred during training (78%), the injury mechanism was found
to be receiving and delivering a kick, especially receiving a kick. The
present study indicates that the risk of suffering an injury in
Taekwondo is not of a high level; however more research is needed in
order for practitioners and clinics to prevent
injuries in training and in competitions.
Key words: injuries,
mechanism, injury type and severity
Taekwondo is an exciting, fast and dynamic
sport which involves both men and women. It belongs to those sports
which have their roots in martial arts since it is a sport of body
contact-fighting and, ever since it was established as an Olympic game
in 2000, has seen its reputation and spectatorship grew stronger and
participation of athletes from all ages (started at age 5) develop
rapidly. Therefore matters such as the safety of the athletes along
with the avoidance of injuries are of great importance.
As for athletes’ safety concerns, the World Taekwondo Federation 
decreed rules concerning matches, as for example, athletes who
participate in Taekwondo should hold “black belt” and should be over 16
years old. Also punches were allowed to the front of the torso in the
area covered by the chest protector worn by the athletes. Kicks were
allowed to the torso and head, which was covered by a helm. Only one
point was given from referees for a successful blow. Athletes could win
the match by means of a knockout, so contact was encouraged. In 2003
the rules changed and ever since athletes win 2 points for every
kick-punch contact on the opponents head and an additional point for an
eight-count knockout .
Most studies of Taekwondo injury occurred at single tournaments [1, 2].
Zemper and Pieter  found injury rates for American elite male
Taekwondo athletes to be 127.4/1,000 athlete-exposures and for females,
90.1/1,000 athlete-exposures. One athlete exposure refers to one
athlete being exposed to the possibility of being injured. A study by
Pieter, Ryssegem, Lufting, & Heijmans  reported injury rates of
139.5/1,000 and 96.5/1,000 athlete-exposures for European men and
women, respectively. In these studies statistical differences
between men and women were not reported. In a study which occurred at a
recreational tournament the men (51.3/1,000) sustained statistically
significantly more injuries than women (47.6/1,000) . But Pieter and
Zemper  in a tournament found significantly higher injury rates for
women (105.1/1,000 versus 95.1/1,000 of men). A recent study Kazemi and
Pieter  found injury rates of 62.9/1,000 athlete exposures
(79.9/1,000 for males, significantly more than the 25.3/1,000 for
Regardless to the injury type, as expected in a contact sport,
contusions were the most frequently injuries reported by male and
female Taekwondo athletes [2, 4].
The body region most frequently affected is the lower extremities,
especially the instep of the foot [2, 4], as reported by both
recreational and Taekwondo athletes in a single tournament. This was
predictable because Taekwondo is characterized by kicking. The most
commonly injured body region in men was the lower extremities
(25.3/1,000), followed by head and neck (18.3/1,000), but all injuries
to women were to the lower extremities and the most common type was a
sprain (22.8/1,000) followed by joint dysfunction (13.7/1,000) .
There were no studies with gender differences related to body region
and body part combined with injury rates . Pieter  reported
that the head and neck sustained most of the injuries in both elite
male and female athletes in karate. There are also no male-female
comparisons on body region injured in judo athletes. Pieter 
reported that in judo the most frequently affected areas were the upper
extremities in women, while in the men the head and neck as well as the
lower extremities were affected more often [9, 10].
Since the nature of Taekwondo requires the frequent use of the legs, it
is predictable that the main injury mechanism was found to be
delivering or receiving a kick [3, 5], especially in men the roundhouse
kick was often implicated [2, 4, 11].
The aim of this study was to record the injury rate per athlete, the
types of injuries that appear in Taekwondo, whether they occurred
during training or in competition, the severity of these injuries, the
mechanism of cause, and the ways in which they were confronted, as well
as to examined the gender differences (if any). The results of this
study could help practitioners and clinics to confront better and also
to prevent injuries. The main difference with other studies is that in
the present study we recorded the injuries in training and in
competition for three years, not only in a single tournament as was
referred in the other studies.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Study population
A total of 118 Greek Taekwondo athletes (64 men and 54 women)
participating in the Greek Taekwondo national division championships
were interviewed during the period 2005-2006. Table 1 gives the age and
anthropometric characteristics of the involved participants, table 2
the athletes and the fight-division to which they belong.
1. Age and anthropometric characteristics of the Taekwondo athletes.
|| Male (n=61)
|| Female (n=53)
|| 21.44 (3.48)
|| 21.46 (3.14)
|| 75.44 (12.18)
|| 62.77 (8.29)
|| 183.87 (9.50)
|| 172.46 (4.86)
Values are means (SD).
2. Division of fighting of Taekwondo athletes
2.2. Data collection and definition of
An orthopaedic surgeon, a physiotherapist, and a trainer made up the
questions that were included in the interview. The injury incidence
rate, the characteristics of the injuries (severity, diagnosis) and the
anatomical location of the muscle skeletal injuries, which occured
during practice and competition in all the championship periods were
recorded for the last 3 years.
Injury was defined as "any mishap occurring during scheduled
competitions or practices that cause an athlete to miss a subsequent
competition or practice session" . Injuries were classified into
three grades of severity: minor (absence from training or competition
for less than one week); moderate (absence from training or competition
for one week to one month); major (absence from training or competition
for more than one month). This classification has been used in much
other research [13, 14, 15, and 16].
The data were statistically analysed using X2 analysis of SPSS
statistical package to determine whether any of the previously
mentioned factors had a relation to the incidence of injury. In all
cases, the null hypothesis was rejected when p <0.05.
3.1. Injury rate
The 118 Taekwondo athletes reported 780 injuries during a total
exposured time of 1089 h for 3 years (260 injuries for 363 h exposure
per year), representing overall incidence injuries per player 2.2 per
year. In terms of Taekwondo participation over 36 month the 118
athletes reported 6.6 injuries per 1,000 hours of training (almost 3
years) and 0.9 per 1,000 hours of competition.
Using X2 analysis no difference in injury rates based on the sex of the
athletes (X2 = .019, p=.889>.05) were found. The injury rate during
training sessions was statistically related in comparison to
competition injury rate (X2 = 331, p<.05) but there were not any
differences in relation to sex (Table 3).
It is notable that according to the records, 96.6 % of the total
Taekwondo athletes were injured in the last 24 months (2 years). 45.1%
of the injured athletes were injured twice, 24.3% were injured
once, 17.8% three times and 9.4% more than five.
3. Injury in training and competition for Taekwondo athletes (males and
|No cases (%)
|| Injuries in
|| Injuries in
|| 118 (100%)
|| 64 (54.2%)
|| 54 (45.8%)
3.3. Type of injury
Table 3 shows, for the total sample, the type of injuries. The most
common injury for the athletes was contusion and laceration 41.4% (149
cases), followed by sprain (instep, toes, ankle) 30.5% (110 cases),
knee lesions 13.5% (48 cases), broken limbs 11.2% (40 cases), and
broken nose 3.4% (12 cases). According to the results, contusion and
laceration happened significantly more than the other types of injuries
(X2= 561.6 p<0.05).
4. Type of injuries
|| Injuries %
|Contusion and laceration*
|Sprains (instep, toes, ankle)
|Broken limb (leg, arm, fingers)
*Significantly higher than in other
3.4. Sex differences
No sex difference (women comparison with men) was found when 292 cases
(acute injuries) were analysed in terms of sex occurrence (comparison
of injuries in men or in women) (X2 =.019, p=889>.05). Also, no sex
difference was found when injuries were analysed in terms of type of
injuries (X2 =7.37, p=.496>.05).
3.5. Severity of injury
The severity of injuries is shown in terms of absence from competition
or training after the injury. The rate of mild injuries was 3.5% (8
cases), that of moderate injuries was 62.4% (161 cases), and that of
major injuries was 30.5 % (78 cases) (there is a significant difference
between them, and 13 missing cases (5.6%)). No statistical differences
were found between severities of injury in relation to sex (p=0.450).
When the 78 major injuries of the participants were analyzed, the data
showed that 64% (50 cases) of these did not influence their Taekwondo
career (almost the 6.4% of the total injuries).
3.6. Time loss and recurrent injuries
47.5% of the athletes lost time up to 10 days from training or
competition because of injury. The recurrent episodes in the 780 cases
were analyzed. According to the statistical analysis X2 the recurrent
episodes (234 cases) were statistically less, compared with the cases
with no recurrent episodes (546 cases) (X2 = 254, p<.05). In
addition there were no sex differences when comparing recurrent
episodes between sexes (women=34 cases (40%), men=51 cases (60%), (X2 =
3.4, p=.065 >0.05). Most of the athletes followed a
rehabilitation program. Those who did not follow a rehabilitation
program were injured again.
3.7. Fight division of the injured
Taekwondo athlete- Injury mechanism
The 65-75 kgr. division of athletes presented more injuries than the
other divisions (X2 = 83.59, p<0.05). The basic injury mechanism was
when athlete received a kick 35.6% (significant), followed by when the
athlete delivered a kick, but it didn’t differentiate from sex. (X2 =
The present study aimed to record the total injury rate of injury per
athlete, the types of injuries that appear in the sport of Taekwondo,
the severity of injuries, whether they occurred during training or
competition, the ways in which they were confronted, as well as what
mechanisms that caused these injuries.
From the analysis of the data it was found that injury rate for Greek
Taekwondo athletes was only 6.6/1,000 athlete exposures. These results
couldn’t be compared to those from other research since that research
recorded injuries in a single tournament, whereas the present study
used another approach and recorded injuries in training and
competitions over three years. No significant differences were found in
injury rate for gender, though a lot of researchers [2, 3, 4] found
that men had more injuries than women. In contrast, at one Greek
national championship, the men’s injury rate (20.6/1,000) was
significantly fewer than the women (36.4/1,000) . But all these
previous studies recorded injuries which incurred at single
Most of the injuries occurred in training and the most injuries
occurred within the last two years. It is predictable that athletes
spend many more hours in training than in competition and it's
reasonable that the injury rate is higher in training. Also, most
athletes answered that they were injured twice in one year.
In point of injury type, most of the injuries were acute injuries. The
most common injury for the athletes was contusion and laceration,
followed by sprain (instep, toes, and ankle), broken body region (arm
and leg, fingers, nose), knee dysfunction, and join dysfunction. These
results agree with other studies [3, 2, 11]. Contusions were also the
most common injury in karate [8, 17].
This seems to be reasonable since the rules of the game allow athletes
to wear protection in the chest and a helmet in the head, body parts
which are exposed are shoulders and arms. Legs are more susceptible to
knocks, and because of the nature of the sport, to contusion and
laceration from several parts of the body every time the athlete
receives a hit, and injures in the legs (mostly in sprains in toes,
instep, or ankle), are especially likely when the athlete attacks.
In relation to the severity of acute injuries which were shown in terms
of absence from competition or training after the injury, most of them
were moderate injuries followed by major injuries and only a small
percentage were mild injuries. No differences between severities of
injury in relation to gender were observed. Of the major injuries,
analysis of the participant’s answers showed that most of them didn’t
influence their Taekwondo career.
Relative to time loss when an athlete was injured, most of the athletes
related that they stayed out of training and games for more than ten
days. When the recurrent episodes in the total injury cases were
analyzed, they were less common in comparison to the cases with no
recurrent episodes. In addition there was no sex difference when the
recurrent episodes were compared. Most of the athletes followed a
rehabilitation program. Those who did not were injured again. In
addition, the findings of the present study showed that at present the
athletes are informed of the benefits of rehabilitation and when
injured both men and women athletes followed the proper procedure.
Nowadays each team has a physiotherapist so that the athlete will have
immediate and professional aid for every injury. Athletes are also
aware of the benefits of prevention by applying appropriate muscular
strengthening and streching of the muscles.
Concerning the fighting division of athletes the 65-75 kgr which
presented more injuries than others. Regarding the injury mechanism it
was found that receiving a kick was the most common mechanism for men
and women alike, followed by delivering a kick, with considerable
difference from other categories of injuries. This is due to the nature
of the sport during which the athletes received or delivered a kick.
When the athlete is confronted with such a kick his/her head may be
injured as well as the neck or shoulders. When the athlete delivers a
kick he/she could also be injured in his/her leg, finger, or knee. Of
course injuries depend also on athlete’s level. A high level
athlete has fewer injuries that those who are of lower level.
This result concurs with what was found previously, that the main
injury mechanism was delivering or receiving a kick [3, 5]. Pieter, et
al  and Zemper, et al  support that men tended to be injured as a
result of receiving a kick more than women. It is suggested that the
most likely injury in men is from a roundhouse kick [2, 4, 11]. The
fact that injuries occurred as a result of receiving a kick may be
partially related to unblocked attacks, so it is recommended that
coaches should work on improving the blocking skills of their athletes.
The results of the present study add certain elements regarding the
appearance of injuries in the sport of Taekwondo. More research is
needed in order that practitioners and clinics may better prevent
injuries in training and competitions.
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