Prevalence, seasonal variation and nature of illness in youth floorball players: a prospective cohort study

      Introduction: Acute illness presents a significant health burden to athletes, including training interference, impaired performance, time-loss from competition and increased subsequent injury risk. Although most youth participate in sport at recreational level, illness epidemiology in this population during a season or competition has not been well studied to direct prevention initiatives. We aim to provide a first detail profile of illness and illness symptoms by sex in Swedish youth floorball players during one season.
      Methods: This prospective cohort study was part of a Sport Without Injury ProgrammE cluster randomised controlled trial in floorball evaluating the efficacy of the Knee Control injury prevention exercise programme. Weekly illness data were collected from youth players during the 2017-2018 season (26 weeks) using the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center questionnaire on health problems. Illness symptoms were grouped into clusters according to the 2020 International Olympic Committee consensus recommendations. Sex differences in average weekly illness prevalence was compared with a prevalence rate ratio and corresponding 95% CI, and proportion of reported illness symptoms with the chi-square test.
      Results: The mean age for 329 male and 142 female players was 13.3(SD 1.0) and 13.7(SD 1.5) years, respectively. The mean number of weekly reports per player was 14.4(SD 7.8) (13.5(SD 8.1) males vs 16.3(SD 6.8) females). 61% of players (60% males vs 64% females) reported at least one illness week during the season. The average weekly illness prevalence was 12%(95% CI 10.8-12.3%) for all players, and slightly higher in females (13%, 95% CI 11.6-14.3%) than males (11%, 95% CI 9.9-11.7%), prevalence rate ratio 1.20(95% CI 1.05-1.37, p=0.009). 49%(53% males, 43% females) of illness reports indicated time-loss from sport. Illness prevalence was highest in calendar weeks 4-7 (peak winter weeks) and ranged from 15%-18%(20%-23% females vs 12%-17% males) during this period. Upper/lower respiratory symptoms (fever (30%), sore throat (16%) and cough (14%) were common). More females (16% vs 3% males, p<0.001) reported difficulty of breathing/tight airways. 7% females and no males reported fainting.
      Discussion: Two third of players reported at least one illness. Flu-like symptoms dominated the season. Athletes, coaches, parents and support personnel need to be aware of risk of infections and educated about risk mitigation of viral infections. Improved awareness of self-monitoring of respiratory symptoms could help reduce the risk of spreading the infection to team members.
      Conflict of interest statement: My co-authors and I acknowledge that we have no conflict of interest of relevance to the submission of this abstract.