For citation purposes: Sterkowicz S, Sterkowicz-Przybycień K. Injuries in karate: A review. OA Sports Medicine 2013 Aug 01;1(2):14.


Epidemiology of Sports Injuries

Injuries in karate: a review

S Sterkowicz, K Sterkowicz-Przybycień

Authors affiliations

Institute of Sport, University School of Physical Education, Cracow, Poland

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Sport injuries usually limit training effects and often ruin athletes’ careers. The goal of thisstudy was to review the results obtained in the studies on injuries in karate athletes.

Materials and methods

A comprehensive search in the international databases of MEDLINE, Web of Science, SPORTdiscuss, Academic Search Premiere, Google Scholar was conducted. The study was based on 20 studies from reviewed journals. The particular focus was on the data concerning injury rates. Relative injury risk was computed according to the following formula: injury rate in group 1/injury rate in group 2, where the 1st and 2nd groups represented two different levels in terms of gender, age, competitive level or changes in competitive rules. Types, location and injury patterns in different groups of karate athletes, investigated in both retrospective and prospective studies, were also analysed.


The retrospective studies have documented serious injuries (chiefly fractures), whereas in the prospective studies, conducted exclusively during tournaments, minor injuries were usually recorded, among which contusions were predominant. The results of the majority of the prospective studies have demonstrated higher injury risk in men compared to women. Sports skill level and tournament rank were correlated with elevated risk of injury. Regardless of the study design, injuries were mostly recorded in the area of head, face and neck. Modifications of the fighting regulations reduced injury risk during championships. However, the risk decline was observed only for minor injuries.


It is important to investigate the factors that reduce injury risk in sport. In karate, injuries are impossible to be entirely eliminated as the impact that exceeds tissue mechanical strength has not been excluded as the main cause of severe injuries. Among children, formal exercise (kata) and pre-arranged sparring might represent a safe alternative for karate fights.

Licensee OA Publishing London 2013. Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)