CHICAGO -- Young wrestlers suffer major injuries less frequently than high school or college wrestlers, a doctor of preventive medicine said Thursday.
A study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association revealed no direct link between weight class and frequency of injury.
'Does the adage 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall' apply to wrestlers? Apparently not,' said Dr. Richard Strauss, Ohio State University team physician and assistant professor of medicine and preventive medicine.
'It doesn't matter if you're heavy, light or in the middle. The injury rate is just about the same.'
Wrestling is the fifth most popular sport for high school boys in the United States, with 245,000 participants.
'Wrestling is a sport which is good in the sense that a lot of the boys of various sizes (and) ages can compete,' he said.
In football, he said, 'you have to be really heavy to succeed. But in wrestling, you can be a shrimp and you're still matched up with people your weight.'
The study involved 1,049 participants -- ages 9 to 20 -- in four wrestling tournaments at grade school, high school and college level.
Boys aged 9 to 14 were injured least frequently -- 3.8 percent, partly because their matches were the shortest. The overall injury rate for high school and college wrestlers was 12 percent.
'What we found was the really young boys are a different animal from the high school and college wrestler in that they really don't get hurt as much. They're more sensitive and don't push each other as much,' Strauss said.
Strauss recommended medically trained personnel attend tournaments due to the significant number of injuries.
Knee and ankle sprains were the most frequent injuries, followed by armpit injury, concussions and facial and scalp lacerations.
Rehabilitation techniques may be very important, since 39 percent of all injuries were re-injuries, Strauss said.
'Making sure the old injury is healed -- and strengthened -- as well as possible before returning to wrestling competition may help to reduce the injury rate,' he said.
The takedown maneuver, when standing opponents attempt to wrestle each other down to the mat, 'is a relatively more injury-prone time than actually wrestling on the mat,' he said.
Ear protectors, which were required during the matches, were 'extremely effective' in preventing 'cauliflower ear,' a well-known risk to wrestlers, Strauss said. Not one such injury was reported.