Anecdotal advice about parkour injuries is easy to encounter. Unfortunately, that type of guidance only works for an underground tribe. As a sport enters the mainstream, a more complete strategy is needed. With dozens of gyms and tens thousands of new athletes joining our ranks, it is time to get serious about parkour injury prevention.
Ryan Ford and I published Parkour Strength Training at the beginning of 2016 to ignite a conversation about what it takes to be lifelong practitioner of our sport. Drawing on Ryan’s coaching career, the book discussed the strength, mobility, and joint preparation needed to keep an athlete injury-free.
Yet, besides that writing, there is little published on injury prevention for our community. Finding academic information about parkour injuries, rates, risk factors, or how they occurred is a practice in futility. A study came out of Brazil in 2014, but only 91 individuals were sampled. The conclusions were that age and the duration of a training session were the main variables associated with injuries. It also concluded that more studies were required to develop a more comprehensive prevention strategy.
To that end, perhaps you heard about the survey conducted by Dr. Lafe Harris and myself this past summer. The questionnaire was issued IRB approval and we had a turnout of over 1700 consenting respondents.
From height and weight, number of years training, sex, and prior fitness level, we collected a massive amount of information. Cleaning and organizing the data has taken some time, but we are now in the process of submitting it for academic review. Because the results are still unpublished, we are limited in how much we can disclose at this point.
Nonetheless, we are eager get the results out to everyone as soon as possible. The bullet points below offer a quick summary of our findings. Understand that this is a superficial overview, with more details to follow upon publication.
- The vast majority of respondents were men, under the age of 35.
- Almost 4/5 of them had an injury that kept them from training parkour in the past year.
- Most injuries resolved in less than 2 weeks, with a much smaller fraction causing impairment that lasted over 6 weeks.
- The injuries were more likely to be sustained while outside or training alone, than indoors or with a group.
- The ankle, knee, and foot were the body regions most frequently injured.
- Sprains/strains and contusion/bruises accounted for the majority of recorded injuries.
- A sprain/strain/tear of the ankle (including the Achilles) was the most common reported injury by individual response count.
- The foot, wrist, and ankle were the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most common regions to experience a fracture.
- The knee was the most commonly reported bruised/contused body part.
- Landing was the most frequently recorded cause of injuries, followed by falling, and impact with an obstacle.
- Over 1/3 of respondents said that they have experienced a non-traumatic injury, such as a tendonitis or similar syndrome.
- The knee was the most common joint to suffer from a non-acute injury.
Points to Remember
Whether you are a solo practitioner or the coach of many athletes, a few take-homes should jump out:
- The environment and setting where you practice is important. Training outside or alone presents more risks than indoors or with a group.
- Landing, falling, and passing obstacles with grace are essential skills. High loads and harsh impacts don’t make for a happy body
- Parkour athletes need better methods to protect their ankles and Achilles from injury.
- Like every sport, parkour has its own collection of cumulative and overuse injuries. Prehab work must be part any strength and conditioning program, especially for your knees.
As we dig deeper into the data, new insights are bound surface. Slicing the sample according to age, gender, and experience, should provide a deeper level of understanding.
One theme that stood out was that many people said parkour actually helped them avoid injuries. That is a pretty cool, don’t you think?
Dr. Harris and I are interested to hear your thoughts about this topic. What additional research questions would you like to see addressed? Are our findings congruent with your own experience?
Finally, if you would like to be notified once the official results are published, please add your name to the email list here.