FRIDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Overuse injuries account for more than one-quarter of all injuries suffered by U.S. collegiate athletes, a new study has found.

Women -- especially those who played field hockey, soccer, softball and volleyball -- accounted for the majority of the overuse injuries (62 percent).

For this study, researchers analyzed three years of data from male and female collegiate athletes participating in 16 team sports at the University of Iowa.

During the study period, 319 male athletes sustained 705 injuries and 254 female athletes suffered 612 injuries. Overall, 288 athletes reported more than one injury. Of all the injuries suffered by the athletes, 29 percent were overuse injuries and 71 percent were acute injuries.

Overuse injuries tend to occur gradually and are caused by repeated small injuries, without a single, identifiable event. Acute injuries -- typically suffered by athletes playing high-speed and full-contact sports such as football or hockey -- have specific and identifiable causes.

The most common overuse injuries were general stress (27 percent), inflammation (21 percent) and tendinitis (16 percent).

Overuse injuries were most common among athletes in low-contact sports that involve long training sessions or in which athletes repeat the same movement numerous times, such as long-distance running, rowing and swimming. Four women's sports in particular -- field hockey, soccer, softball and volleyball -- had the highest rates of overuse injuries.

The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

"Overuse injuries may present not only physical challenges, but also psychological ones that could significantly affect an athlete's recovery and performance," study co-author Tracey Covassin said in a journal news release.

"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," Covassin said.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about common sports injuries and conditions.