Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Factors Influencing Performance-Related Injuries among Group Exercise Instructors

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Factors Influencing Performance-Related Injuries among Group Exercise Instructors

Article excerpt


Group exercise instructors are at particular risk for performance-related injuries because many teach multiple classes each day where they repetitively demonstrate exercise moves. To assess performance-related injuries, a paper-pencil survey was mailed to 1000 randomly selected American Council on Exercise certified group exercise instructors. Questionnaire respondents included 386 professionally certified female instructors from 48 states. Most injuries reported (77%) were of the lower extremity (feet, knee, calf, thigh, shin, ankle, hip). Less than one-fourth of the injuries (23%) were of the trunk or upper body (shoulder, arm, back). The three most commonly reported injury sites were the foot (13.1%), knee (12.5%), and back (9.5%). The three most common types of injury reported were general inflammation (20.7%), muscle strain or sprains (19.6%), and stress fractures (16.8%). Two independent variables were significantly associated with rates of injuries: obligatory exercise scores (p = .0028), and reports of a past eating disorder (p = .0007). Group exercise instructors are at particular risk for injury to the lower body. Those instructors with exercise and eating-related disorders are especially prone to activity-related injuries.


Since group exercise classes began in the seventies, there have been many changes in the types of classes offered. Every few years a new form of exercise class grows in popularity and each new "style" of class has led to different reports of performance-related injuries. The group exercise instructor is at particular risk for injury because unlike many sports or other fitness activities, they tend to demonstrate all of the moves when leading each exercise rather than acting as coaches. In most instances, they do everything the students do (Garrick, Gillien, & Whiteside, 1986).

The formative years of aerobic classes often included high-impact movements which led to injuries in the feet, lower leg, and knees (Francis, Francis, & Welshons-Smith, 1985). During the early nineties, the step bench was introduced and it soon became the rage (Sullivan, 2000). According to Smith (2000), the most common injuries reported during step classes occurred as a result of repetitive microtrauma or overuse and were in the lower extremities. Injuries in body regions reported by step class participants include knee stress, foot injuries, stress fractures, lower leg injuries, shoulder injuries, and lower back pain (Smith, 2000). In the late nineties indoor cycling became a popular activity offering. Most information on injuries during indoor cycling has been extrapolated from studies of the outdoor sport; however, it appears overuse injuries caused by repetitive stress are the main cause of injury in the lower body (Vogel, 2000). Now there is cardio-kickboxing, offered by almost 80% of clubs in the Unit ed States (Sullivan, 2000). Until more studies are conducted, cardio-kickboxing injuries are being investigated by examining research from the martial arts (Williams, 2000). "Ethnic-flavored" programs, such as Latin salsa and yoga, are also adding diversity to the line-up of exercise options (Rey, 2000).

In order to protect participants from injury in these diverse offerings, it is recommended that they learn fitness moves from certified instructors (Sullivan, 2000). Professional certification is beneficial for instructors and the participants because it provides education regarding proper techniques which will protect both groups from unsafe fitness moves (American Council on Exercise, 2000); however, even when proper techniques are used, injury may occur if one continues to exercise too much (Belt, 1990). To increase their income, man teachers teach too many classes each week (Garrick et al., 1986; Thompson & Sargent, 2000), thus increasing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Furthermore, when injured, instructors must cut back on classes taught or not teach at all. …

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