Background: The benefits and risks of performing popular wrist-loading sports at a young age have not been investigated systematically. We aimed to evaluate positive and negative long-term wrist-related health effects of sports performance requiring repetitive wrist loading during youth. Methods: Six databases were searched for cohort and cross-sectional studies. Three investigators selected studies evaluating quantitatively measured health effects of upper extremities in athletes practicing wrist-loading sports (gymnastics, tennis, volleyball, field hockey, rowing, and judo) for minimally 4 months before the age of 18. Results: A total of 23 studies with 5 outcome measures, nearly all of moderate to good quality, were eligible for inclusion. Bone mineral density and bone mineral content were higher in athletes compared with controls and in tennis players’ dominant arm. Mixed results were found for ulnar variance in gymnasts. Handgrip strength was greater in tennis players’ dominant arm and in experienced gymnasts. Conclusions: Wrist-loading sports performance during youth can promote bone strength in wrists and dominant handgrip strength, but evidence on the lasting of these effects and on prevalence of wrist joint degeneration in former young athletes is limited. For better counseling of young athletes and their parents, future studies with increased comparability are essential, for which recommendations are provided.
Kox, Thijssen, van Rijn, and Maas are with the Dept of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Kox, Kerkhoffs, and Maas are with the Academic Center for Evidence-based Sports medicine (ACES), Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Amsterdam Collaboration for Health and Safety in Sports (ACHSS), International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Center, Academic Medical Center/VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Kuijer and Frings-Dresen are with Coronel Institute for Occupational Health, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Kerkhoffs is also with the Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.