An audit of injuries within a cohort of elite level professional speedway riders during the competitive season 2018-19


To identify ways to improve the performance, and the health and well-being, of speedway riders.

Due to a lack of quality evidence-base to underpin professional practice in this field, to establish the incidence, nature and severity of injuries affecting speedway riders.

To highlight implications for practice and/or recommendations that can be used to drive improvements in practice.

To identify further areas for future investigation.

Total exposure time for all participants was 517 minutes,
equating to a team injury incidence of 696 injuries per 1000 hours of exposure.
Mean severity of injuries included in the calculation was 2.66
(moderate to serious; AAAM, 2018).
Total competitive time lost
was 139 days.


An evaluation using new auditable injury data collected by a UEA MSc pre-registration physiotherapy master´s student, supported by a university supervisor.

No power calculation was performed for a recommended sample size, as this project does not aim to determine an effect size, but aims to report descriptively on change within individuals.

Speedway riders were formally consented to participate in the collection of data recording any injury sustained during the speedway season. Data was collected via a self-report form using a standard set of questions. The injuries were described and located on a body chart. Additional information regarding how much participation in sport time was lost, was also collected. As all injuries may potentially impact on participation, this included any injury which occurred in contexts both inside and outside the realm of the speedway activities.

Van Mechelen et al's ´Systematic Prevention´ model (1992) was used to ensure that the approach to data collection was systematic, based on how the model describes the injury incidence and the severity of injuries. Incidence is usually defined as the number of injuries per exposure time (e.g. per 1000 hours of sports participation). The severity of sports injuries is described within this model in relation to six categories: the nature of the injury, the duration and nature of treatment, sporting time lost, working time lost, permanent damage and cost.

Subjective information (self-reported by the rider) was collected using questions selected from a standard Maitland subjective assessment format.

Although there are different methods available, the Maitland method (first described by Maitland in 1970) is widely recognised by physiotherapists as a competent and effective method of collecting data that can be used to form a logical and deduced hypothesis about the nature of the origins of the disorder. The subjective part of the assessment formed part of this approach. The UEA physiotherapy masters student then collected a more detailed summary of the nature and location of the injury from the rider at the next available home fixture following self-report. Where this was not possible data was collected over the phone using the same format. All riders who consented also provided a verbal version of their previous medical history to provide context to any injuries that occurred.


13 injuries were reported, 6 of which fulfilled the inclusion criteria and were used in the calculation of injury incidence.

Five injuries were excluded as they did not meet the definition. These included:

  • three upper extremity injuries reported by participant 1
  • one neck injury from participant 3
  • one upper extremity injury reported by participant 6.
  • two upper extremity injuries reported by participant 2 did fulfill the definition but were excluded as they were sustained when competing for another team.

Total exposure time for all participants was 517 minutes, equating to a team injury incidence of 696 injuries per 1000 hours of exposure.

Mean severity of injuries included in the calculation was 2.66 (moderate to serious; AAAM, 2018). Total competitive time lost was 139 days.

Statistical analysis revealed significant correlations between: 

  • injury incidence and average points per meeting (r= -.845, p= .034)
  • injury incidence and exposure (r= -.868, p=.025)
  • exposure and points average (r=.900, p= .014)
  • severity and injuries meeting the inclusion criteria (r=.980, p=.001)
  • the severity and total competitive time lost (r=.823, p =.044)

Cost and savings

This was a research project run by the UEA in partnership with a student from the MSc Physiotherapy programme. The only costs involved were travel form the researchers to and from the stadium, which was funded by the UEA.


These findings suggest that Motorcycle Speedway is a high-risk sport.

Athletes experience a high incidence of injuries per exposure time when compared to other sports, even those of a motorcycling racing nature.

Fractures and contusions are the most common injuries in motorcycle speedway and predominantly affect the extremities.

Methodological limitations apparent in this study reduce the reliability and generalisability of the findings. Thus, further injury surveillance research should be undertaken to more convincingly inform any hypothesised injury prevention strategies going forward.

Investment in physiotherapy input over a competitive season may be a cost-effective strategy for managing time lost to injuries. However, given the nature of the sport and the riders involved, further qualitative research into health beliefs and attitudes to reporting and managing injuries might also be helpful for healthcare professionals aiming to preventing and manage injuries sustained in motorcycle speedway.

Top three learning points

  1. Speedway is a profession that requires considerably more research to underpin practice within health and well-being.
  2. Speedway riders do not define injury in the way we would as healthcare professionals, they have a high tolerance for what they consider ‘normal’ levels of trauma associated with their sport.
  3. Speedway riders would benefit from more access to reliable and consistent advice from physiotherapists on their health and well-being.

Funding acknowledgements

No funding was received for this project. The partnership between Kings Lynn All Stars and the UEA has no financial involvement. Student travel expenses between the UEA and the Kings Lynn speedway stadium were covered by the UEA school of Health Sciences.

Additional notes

This work was presented at Physiotherapy UK 2019

Please see the attached Innovations poster below. 


For further information about this work please contact Jonathan Larner.