Height and Leg Injuries: What is the Correlation?
There is a common myth in the sports injury world that generally leg injuries happen more frequently and more severely to those that are taller because there is a longer amount to get injured. On the same token, it has been said that not only do injuries happen more frequently and more severely to taller people but also that it takes longer to heal because again the bones and muscles are elongated to match the height and thus it takes longer for the body to repair itself. However, some have questioned this myth that there is no significant difference in leg injuries between abnormally tall and those of average height. This piece is to discuss whether this common statement has some substance to back it up.
The Methods and Facts
To analyze this myth, we want to look at a profession where we generally find people above average in height who are prone to leg injuries to have a reasonable sample size to compare with someone of average height. For this, a great sample to use would be to take leg injuries for a male of above-average height such as those playing professional basketball and take the average height of NBA players and compare that with the leg injuries of an average height of American males. We are looking at the average NBA height because it is much greater than the average height of a normal American male.
So now for the real numbers to be used in the study: the average height of an American male is around 5 foot 9 inches compared to the average height of an NBA player is 6 foot 7 inches. We thought about using the average height of an NBA player compared to using the average height of a normal American male because the considerable difference between the average NBA athlete's height and the average American male height is wide enough for comparison.
Now we cannot access medical records for the number of injuries as that does violate ethical grounds however through a compilation of many studies that did work in this subject, I came to the conclusion that height does not have a very significant influence on the number of injuries to a certain extent. Once people do start to get into a range of more than 7 feet and upwards, injuries to the legs end up getting more frequent as cited by his study from Penn State wherewith their limited information they were able to surmise that once someone reaches a certain height generally close to 7 feet that were mentioned earlier.
From both a study from Five-Thirty-Eight Analytics and a student study from Penn State, a general trend was noticed around NBA players that are around 6' 11' or taller are more prone to injury, Five-Thirty-Eight author Jeff Stotts went as far as to illustrate in a graphic that for talented NBA lottery picks from the common draft era (about 14 players per year for approximately 36 years) that showed for players taller than 6' 8'' all the way up to above 7' 0'' suffered 37.7% of leg injuries, the most of all height brackets.
Conclusion and Takeaway
Overall, there is not much of a reason to suggest that above average height does not lead to a higher frequency or severity of injuries and this myth can be debunked to a degree. Once height starts to reach the range of 7 foot, that is when things get more tricky and especially so for taller athletes that it has shown injury and re-injury chance is higher for athletes near that height. Evidence for this suggests the same idea as well, with all-time great big man Yao Ming having to retire due to constant injuries to his legs at a 7 foot 6-inch frame.