UW study finds rapid weight cutting in wrestling leads to higher risk of injury

College wrestlers who rapidly cut weight more prone to injury

MADISON, Wis. — Cutting weight quickly can be a common practice in amateur wrestling, but local health experts are warning young athletes that it can come with a cost — including a higher risk of injury.

A new study from UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found wrestlers who cut weight by dehydrating themselves were more likely to get hurt.

As part of the study, researchers looked at 67 NCAA Division 1 wrestlers over the course of seven seasons. They found that for every percent of total body weight lost through dehydration, athletes were 11% more likely to get hurt.

Wrestlers who got hurt lost about 7% of their body weight, compared to the 5.7% of body weight lost by those who weren’t hurt during competition. Those who ended up getting hurt lost an average of 11.6 pounds, while those that did not get hurt lost an average of 9.5 pounds.

The most common injuries observed during the study were knee injuries, followed by concussions and other head injuries, and shoulder injuries.

The NCAA has tried things like moving weigh-in closer to the start of the match and establishing a lowest minimum weight class for each wrestler to cut down on those injuries and discouraging rapid weight-cutting. However, researchers say the mentality is still pervasive in the sport and needs to be addressed.

“While stories about weight-cutting are part of wrestling culture, I believe we need to start the conversation about the harm of rapid weight-cutting,” Dr. Erin Hammer said about the study.

Researchers say attempts by wrestlers to rehydrate quickly after weigh-in do not work, since the body needs 24 to 48 hours to fully rehydrate.

Of the 67 male wrestlers that were included in the study, 46 of them saw a total of 53 unique injuries over seven seasons.