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Injury Rates at an NCAA Division I Institution After the COVID-19 Lockdown: A Descriptive Epidemiological Study.

BACKGROUND: The coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic led to frequent schedule changes, abbreviated seasons, and disrupted training at all levels of organized sports.

PURPOSE/HYPOTHESIS: The purpose of this study was to investigate the epidemiology of sports-related injuries at a single National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institution during the 2020 COVID lockdown season when compared with pre-COVID seasons. It was hypothesized that there would be an increase in the overall injury rate and an increase in the number of days missed because of injury during the 2020 season when compared with the previous seasons.

STUDY DESIGN: Descriptive epidemiology study.

METHODS: The injury surveillance database at a single NCAA Division I institution was queried for injuries that resulted in time loss (missed game or practice) for a student-athlete or for injuries that persisted >3 days. Injuries were categorized by anatomic area. Days unavailable because of injury were recorded as total days that a student-athlete was listed as "out of activity." Injury incidence and days unavailable, per 1000 athlete-exposures (AEs), were calculated for 3 pre-COVID seasons (2017-2019) and the 2020 season. The authors calculated the injury rate ratio (IRR) and its associated 95% CI of the 2020 season in comparison with those for the pre-COVID seasons.

RESULTS: Compared with the pre-COVID seasons, the total injury incidence increased by 10.5% in the 2020 season (68.45 vs 75.65 injuries/1000 AEs; IRR, 1.11 [95% CI, 1.08-1.13]). Total days unavailable decreased by 20.7% in the 2020 season (1374 vs 1089 days/1000 AEs; IRR, 0.79 [95% CI, 0.77-2.26]). Compared with women's teams, men's teams had a larger increase in total injury incidence (16.4% vs 6.5%) and larger decrease in days unavailable (23.7% vs 10.75%). There were no clear trends to changes in anatomic distribution of injuries, either by sport or between the sexes.

CONCLUSION: Compared with the pre-COVID seasons, the injury incidence was higher and the number of days missed because of injury lower among collegiate student-athletes at a single NCAA Division I school in the season immediately after the COVID-19 lockdown.

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