Handball is a contact sport which involves throwing and
jumping, exposing players to serious physical stress. There is a
high risk of injuries leading to possible long-term sequelae. The
aim of this study was to assess the incidence of musculoskeletal
injuries in elite male handball players compared with an age-matched
PATIENTS AND METHODS
Former elite handball players, who had played on the Swiss
national team between 1980 and 1985, answered a questionnaire about
injuries, surgical interventions and their current health status. A
total of 34 athletes were compared with 58 age-matched volunteers,
who only engaged in recreational sports or no sports at all.
The mean age of the athletes was 58.4 years (range 52-68
years) and did not differ significantly from the mean age of the
control group of 58.7 years (range 53-69 years). In the control
group, 70 % engaged in recreational sports. There was no
statistical difference regarding the life-long incidence of shoulder
injuries and surgical interventions, sequelae or persistent shoulder
pain. Athletes had more interventions after elbow injuries (0.09 vs.
0, p = 0.047), but the difference with respect to chronic pain
or late sequelae was not statistically significant. For knee
injuries, there were no significant differences regarding the
incidence of injuries or interventions, the prevalence of secondary
consequences or persistent pain. Concerning the foot and ankle,
there was a significantly higher incidence of injuries (0.5 vs.
0.03, p < 0.001) and interventions (0.5 vs. 0.09,
p < 0.001) in athletes, but no statistical difference
regarding sequelae or persistent pain. Overall quality of life had
identical ratings in both groups (athletes mean 85.9 %, controls
mean 85.8 %).
Top handball players did not sustain more shoulder or knee
injuries than the age-matched control group. The elbow was more at
risk in these top athletes, but long-term consequences appeared to
be less severe. The most distinctive difference was seen in foot and
A career as an elite handball player had no adverse effect on
the overall quality of life of elite handball players 25 to 30 years
after retiring from professional sports.