Sleep More and Prevent Injuries


Sleeping athlete illustration. (Small)By Dan McCarthy//High Performance Consultant

Sleep is not a new topic on the High Performance Tips web page. The importance of sleep as a recovery tool, napping, and most recently how sleep is more important than almost every other recovery modality have all been featured articles. Add to the list the growing stack of evidence that the hours of sleep an athlete gets at night is a significant predictor of injury.

The Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics published the results of a survey completed by 112 athletes (grades 7-12) in which they found athletes that slept less than eight hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have been injured playing sports than athletes that slept more than eight hours per night. Surprisingly many variables usually associated with injuries (hours of participation per week, number of sports, strength training) were not found to be significant variables for injuries. There have been previous studies that tied professional athletes’ success to how sleepy they were during the day. The less sleepy were more likely to have longer careers. This study emphasizes the importance of sleep for the developing athlete between 7th and 12th grades. 

For the curious, the second most important variable was grade in school. Putting these two variables together would be harmful, but unfortunately likely. A junior in high school is probably more apt to get less than eight hours of sleep than a 7th grader and apparently already at a higher risk based on grade in school alone. According to the study for every additional year in school the athletes were 1.4 times more likely to have been injured.

As we press towards the coming championships season and the Olympic Trials (which are less than 130 days away) the most simple and effective recovery tool and injury-preventing technique that athletes can implement is getting eight or more hours of sleep every night.