Side differences of upper quarter Y balance test performance in sub-elite young male and female handball players with different ages

Background: Handball is characterised by repetitive passing and shooting actions mainly performed with the throwing arm. This can lead to side differences (inter-limb asymmetry) in upper quarter mobility/stability between the throwing and non-throwing arm, which could even increase with advancing age (i.e., playing experience). However, side differences in upper quarter mobility/stability is associated with an increased musculoskeletal injury risk. Therefore, we assessed side differences in upper quarter mobility/stability in young handball players at different ages using a cross-sectional study design.

Methods: Upper Quarter Y Balance test performance of the throwing and non-throwing arm was assessed in 190 sub-elite young female and male handball players (13–18 years). Per arm, relative maximal reach distances (% arm length) for all three directions (i.e., medial, inferolateral, superolateral) and the composite score (CS) were calculated and used for an age × side analysis of variance. Additionally, partial eta-squared ( η p 2 ) was calculated as an effect size measure.

Results: Irrespective of measure, statistically significant main effects of age (except for the composite score) and side but no statistically significant age × side interaction effects were detected. Further, limb asymmetry in the inferolateral reach direction was above the injury-related cut-off value (i.e., ≥ 7.75% arm length) in 13- and 14-year-olds but not in the older players.

Conclusion: The detection of limb asymmetry above the proposed injury-related cut-off value in younger players (13- and 14-year-olds) but not in older players (15- to 18-year-olds) may be indicative for an increased injury risk for the younger age group. Thus, prevention programs should be implemented in the handball training routine, especially for the younger ones.


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