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More Weightlifters Are Injuring Heads, Faces During Workouts
  • Posted March 22, 2024

More Weightlifters Are Injuring Heads, Faces During Workouts

The weight room is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for folks trying to get into shape, a new study discovers.

Head and facial injuries related to weightlifting have increased sharply during the past decade for both men and women, researchers found.

Between 2013 and 2022, the annual rate of exercise- and weightlifting-related head and facial injuries increased by nearly 33%, according to their recent report in The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery.

Most injuries occurred in men, who accounted for nearly 56% of face and head wounds.

However, the increase in cases of injury was nearly twice as high in women than in men, 45% versus 24%.

For the study, researchers analyzed injury data compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, reviewing nearly 583,000 such injuries that occurred during the 10-year period.

Prior studies of injuries related to exercise and weightlifting have focused on other parts of the body like the limbs or lower back, researchers said, neglecting injuries that can occur to the face and head.

“Ego lifting” is likely behind at least part of the increase observed in men, said the research team led by Rohan Mangal, a medical student with at the University of Miami.

Those men get hurt because they feel pressured to exercise or lift weights beyond their capacity, the researchers speculated.

This is most likely true for 15- to 19-year-olds, who had the highest rate of head and face injuries at 10%, researchers said.

Overall, head injuries were the most common type (45%), followed by injuries to the face (26%) and the neck (21%). Other types like mouth, eye and ear injuries accounted for less than 5% each.

Internal injuries (broken bones and damaged organs) and lacerations were the most common types of injuries, each accounting for about 25% of all injuries, researchers said.

About 9% of patients wound up needing hospitalization for their injuries, results showed. For patients with internal injuries to the head, hospital admission rates were higher, around 15% to 20%.

Safe exercise practices can help reduce the rates of injuries in the weight room, researchers said. These include training in proper technique and exercise supervision by gym staff.

“While exercise and weightlifting-related craniofacial injuries are impossible to avoid altogether, knowledge of their current trends allows for targeted prevention strategies for vulnerable subgroups,” the researchers concluded.

More information

Houston Methodist Hospital has more on weightlifting injuries.

SOURCE: The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, news release, March 18, 2024

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