Study of Athletes and Sleep Has Implications for Injury Prevention

F.J. Thomas

Sarasota, FL ( – A new military study suggests that getting enough sleep is critical to avoiding musculoskeletal injuries, even in persons who are extremely fit. Written by Tyson Grier MS with the U.S. Army Public Health Center, the study surveyed 7,576 military personnel in the elite Special Forces. A total of 95 percent of those surveyed were men, and 70 percent were under the age of 35.

The results of the study showed that soldiers that slept 4 hours or less were 2.3 times as likely to experience musculoskeletal injuries than those soldiers who were able to get 8 hours of sleep. Additionally, the survey indicated that older men had a significantly higher chance of injury even though they were physically fit.

In a December Runner’s World report, a study published in Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport supported the importance of sleep in the physically fit. The study polled 95 runners, swimmers, cyclists, and triathletes about their health issues including new injuries.

The results of the study showed a higher increase in injuries for those athletes that slept less than 7 hours. Incidentally, there was also a higher increase in injuries reported for those athletes that also reported psychological issues.

According to the Runner’s World report, sleep is as important as nutrition and proper hydration in avoiding injuries. The lack of sleep inhibited utilization of protein, and had an impact on the immune system and inflammatory response, which are all factors in injuries.

Another study written by Corey A Peacock with Nova Southeastern University supports the importance of sleep for Professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters. The study followed 8 professional MMA fighters in a partially controlled environment for 6 weeks as they prepared for an upcoming fight. The fighters practiced 1 to 2 times per day, and competed in an MMA fight during the time period.

Fighters were tested on the 7 following measuring –
Vertical jump – jump height measurement
Prowler push – sled push times and distance measured
Modified Bruce Protocol (VO2max) – volitional exhaustion measured as well as maximum heart rate
Heart Rate Recovery [(HRR) – heart rate tracked after VO2max
Pull Ups – maximum pull ups recorded
Injuries – total number of injuries tracked
Missed sessions – missed sessions due to injuries and fatigue tracked

Sleep was tracked continuously as well with wrist technology. Sleep quality was gauged by the amount of time it took the athletes to fall asleep, length of sleep, and consistency.

The study showed a direct correlation between sleep and heart rate recovery, as well as missed sessions due to injury. Those athletes that had better quality of sleep showed significantly better performance. The study suggested that in the event of compromised sleep quality, daytime rest may be beneficial.

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