Overuse injuries account for nearly 30 percent of those suffered by college athletes and may have psychological repercussions in addition to physical, according to a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University and published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

The study tracked the incidence of injury among 573 NCAA Division I athletes across 16 sports for three years. Of the 1,317 injuries reported, 29.3 percent were from overuse. Female athletes accounted for 62 percent of overuse injuries, with four women's sports - field hockey, soccer, softball and volleyball - leading the way.

Overuse injuries are the result of repeated small injuries, with no single, notable event. As a result, athletes are more likely to delay seeking medical attention, which in turn can lead to more serious consequences down the road, such as arthritis. More immediately, overuse injuries cause a decline in performance and loss of playing time and psychological exhaustion.

"Understanding the frequency, rate and severity of overuse injuries is an important first step for designing effective injury-prevention programs, intervention strategies and treatment protocols to prevent and rehabilitate athletes with these types of injuries," says study co-author Tracey Covassin, a member of the Michigan State University's Department of Kinesiology.

The results of the study point to the need for better prevention and early intervention programs to limit the incidence and severity of overuse injuries.