Injury Prevention, Strength and Conditioning

Parkour Injuries: 2012 Survey Results

Active people get hurt. It’s a fact of life, and it’s something that we all must confront sooner or later. Some of us can escape our training with relatively few injuries, while others seem to collect wounds and broken bones like a bad habit.

Injuries often seem unavoidable. Yet, when you know what the most common types of injuries are in your sport, you have the power to adjust your risk-taking accordingly.

It was from that mindset that I wanted to create a survey to explore the types of injuries that parkour athletes face.

As of today, 239 people have submitted their responses to the Survey Monkey link I put out on social media.  (I’m grateful to American Parkour, Ryan Ford, Revolution Parkour, and the Portland Parkour Facebook community for helping to spread the word!)

I had a lot of feedback about the design of the survey, with emphasis on the fact that you should have been able to select more than one answer, and that some options weren’t even listed. Chalk it up to my  inexperience with survey design. Given the opportunity to redo it, I would have enabled multiple selections and allowed free text for some of the questions

Here is summary of the responses for each of the 10 questions, followed up with a bit of analysis at the end:

1. Have you experienced a parkour-related injury in the past 12 months?

YES: 85.5 %

NO: 14.5%

2. How would you describe the injury?

Traumatic (resulting from a specific accident/fall, etc.): 74.2%

Cumulative (chronic, developing over time): 25.8%

3. What body part was injured?

Head, neck or upper back: 5.7%

Shoulder: 6.8%

Elbow, wrist or hand: 18.2%

Low back: 6.3%

Hip or pelvis: 3.6%

Knee: 20.8%

Ankle or foot: 38.5%

4. What was the nature of the injury?

Joint sprain: 23.2%

Muscle strain or tear: 19.1%

Fracture: 5.7% (11 people)

Dislocation: 2.6%

Tendonitis or bursitis: 9.8%

Nerve injury: 2.1%

Contusion or bruise: 24.2%

Other: 13.4%

5. What level of medical intervention was required?

None: 72.5%

Emergency Department: 4.7%

Surgery: 1.6% (3 people)

Physical therapy: 10.9%

Chiropractic: 6.2%

Multiple: 4.1%

6. If the injury was traumatic, how did it occur?

While running/sprinting: 2.9%

Fall (during precision jump or vault): 35.8%

Dropping from a height: 16.2%

On bars (lache, brachiating): 3.5%

Performing acrobatics or freerunning: 23.1%

While strength training: 4.6%

Other: 13.9%

7. In your opinion, what could have prevented the injury? hamstring stretch

Improved technique: 31.3%

More training: 10.9%

No hesitation: 6.3%

Better strength: 7.8%

More flexibility: 8.3%

Better spatial awareness: 17.7%

Freak accident: 17.7%

8. How have you had to modify your training since the injury?

Not currently training (still recovering): 8.3%

Use of a brace or strap: 10.4%

Shorter training episodes: 1.6%

Less intense movements: 10.9%

Cautious of the injury: 31.1%

Feeling fine (no modification to routine): 37.8%

9. What “tools” have you used to recover?

Pain killers: 5.2%

Icing: 12.5%

Rest: 31.3%

Compression (ace wrap, sleeves): 9.9%

Mobility drills: 7.3%

Stretching: 20.3%

Targeted strength training: 13.5%

10. How would you grade your knowledge of injury prevention and recovery, as it relates to parkour?

Excellent: 12.8%

Very good: 33.5%

Good: 36.9%

Fair: 13.8%

Poor: 3.0%

My Commentary

  • Over 85% of respondents reported a parkour-related injury in the past year!  That’s a huge number, and perhaps related to selection bias, meaning that people with an injury were more likely to take the survey than the non-injured. Either way, it should draw attention to the fact that injuries abound in parkour, and we should be mindful of how to avoid getting hurt.
  • The majority of injuries were traumatic, involved the leg (knee, ankle, feet), and resulted from a fall or dropping from a height. Not much of a surprise here. Any time high velocity is involved, the risk of tissue damage is greater during an accident. Falls or dropping from a height, by definition involve the acceleration due to gravity, thus they can result in significant tissue disruption, like the sprains, strains and contusions, which were the most frequently reported injuries. This reinforces the need to practice the art of falling, and limit your height drops. I recommend following Amos Rendao’s YouTube channel Parkour Ukemi, for advice on falling and rolling techniques.
  • 13% of injury types were described as “other.”  My guess is that people in the “other” category suffered from cuts/lacerations and concussions, but I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.
  • Over 75% of the injuries reported could have been prevented with: improved technique, more training, increased strength, better flexibility, and heightened spatial awareness. This is a really important take-home message. All of the conditioning and training that you do can have a large impact on whether or not you get hurt. It emphasizes the need to dedicate time to strength training, balance work, stretching, and practicing the basic movements as part of your weekly routine. Dedicate too much time to learning new skills and you place yourself at greater risk of injury, than if you had a more balanced training regimen. 
  • 15% of respondents noted only “fair” or “poor” awareness of injury prevention and recovery techniques. If you find yourself in this category, it’s essential that you take steps to search out instructors or mentors to help you learn how to avoid getting hurt. By being proactive in your approach to prevention, I’m confident that you can decrease your risk of parkour injuries.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the survey.

Please leave your comments below.

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