Olympic weightlifting is a sport that is comprised of two lifts: the snatch and the clean & jerk. The snatch starts from the floor and the barbell is lifted to an overhead position in a single movement. In the clean & jerk, it is comprised of two movements where the barbell is first lifted to shoulder-level, and then lifted to an overhead position.
It’s not surprising that a sport which requires you to throw a maximum amount of weight above your head might be considered dangerous. It’s also easy to find videos on the internet of gruesome injuries from weightlifting that often feed into this idea that weightlifting is a sport with a high risk of injury, but really, how dangerous is Olympic weightlifting?
First, let’s take a look at the stats. When comparing injuries risk in sports, a common measurement that is used are injury rates. Injury rates are defined as the number of injuries an individual is likely to experience per 1,000 hours of athlete-exposure. Surprisingly enough, there are studies that have reported lower injury rates in weight-training sports (which include Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding) in comparison to common team sports such as basketball, volleyball, and football1.
Fear of getting hurt isn’t a good reason to avoid participating in a sport you’re interested in. If your goal is to be injury-free your entire life, you’d might as well never leave your bed. Of course, there are moments during training where you bump into minor pains and aches, but it is something that occurs across the board for all sports training. With proper coaching, programming, and nutrition, the risk of injury can be minimized. However, the skills that are required to be successful in the sport of weightlifting (such as exercise programming, other technical aspects of the lifts, etc.) are not intuitive and every beginner should highly consider getting a qualified coach to help lay the foundation for understanding the basic principles of strength training and periodization.
– Rayson Sorayama, PT Aide
Keogh, J. W., & Winwood, P. W. (2017). The Epidemiology of Injuries Across the Weight-Training Sports. Sports Medicine, 47(3), 479-501. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0575-0