Rule Revision Rumble: Exploring the Impact of Rule Changes on Olympic Judo Injuries

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Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine


Purpose: After each Olympics, judo undergoes rule changes mainly for spectator appeal. We questioned if these changes inadvertently affected injury rates among Olympic Judo participants. This study reviews data over 4 Olympics (2008-2020) to identify correlations between rule changes and injury trends.

Methods and Study Design: We reviewed summary data for each Olympics as reported by the International Olympic Committee Injury and Illness Surveillance system, athlete attendance for each summer game, and rule change records. We calculated injury incidence rates per 100 registered athletes (IIRa), proportions of injuries categorized by body region and injury type, and differences with χ2.

Results: About 1/3 of athletes were returning participants, reflecting consistent representation of demographics. IIRa of overall injuries in each Olympic game was 11.2, 12.3, 11.3, 14.6 (P = 0.52), and IIRa of time loss injury was 6.4, 5.7, 4.9, 8.7 (P = 0.16). Data for the 2008 Olympics game regarding specific body parts and injury type was unavailable. Several injury proportions include the proportion of head/neck injuries [10.6, 13.6, 8.7 (P = 0.74)]; upper extremity injury [51.1, 50, 36.8 (P = 0.26)]; lower extremity injury [36.2, 31.8, 40.4 (P = 0.68)]; and joint injury [61.7, 54.5, 59.6 (P =0.78)].

Conclusions: Overall changes included a ban on leg grabbing, stricter regulations for headfirst landings during throws, and alterations to match structure, which did not correlate with significant changes among various injury rates across 4 Olympic games. These findings may be influenced by low overall incidence, high conditioning levels, and unpredictable match dynamics.

Significance: Ongoing rule changes for spectator appeal may eventually affect injury incidences as athletes use riskier techniques. Further research exploring associations between rule changes and injury patterns in all competition levels will be important.



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