These discussions are almost always interesting. I go back to that days when lifting weights was discouraged for many sports. It makes you slow and “muscle bound” don’t you know? It stunts your growth. Now, golfers lift.
When I competed, the weight sports stuck together, even trained at the same gyms. There weren’t as many gyms then. Work was real work, you didn’t sit all day. Hell, they used to have bodybuilding competitions at weightlifting meets, between the lightweights and heavyweights.
As things grew, you started to have the arguments regarding which was better, safer, a more effective way to improve athletic performance, etc. Pro football players used to train at my gym and I could outlift all of them, not just outlift them, but kick their ass. As I was watching an all pro DE squat, pathetically, while it surprised me, it occurred to me that I still wouldn’t want to line up across form him. He would either be around me before I blinked or run through me, before I blinked. I was a weightlifter, he was a football player. No comparison.
Research studies are always suspect. There is an agenda. I remember when USAWeightlifting tried to use them to prove the safety of weightlifting and the benefits for sports because it is “explosive”. I know a national champion weightlifter who trained at a facility which worked with football players training for the combine. On a whim, he did it. Standing broad jump over 12 feet (over the record for DBs at the time), 4.62 electronically timed 40, in weightlifting shoes, after heavy squats. Vertical, 41. They told him to go to the combine, he could “win” the combine! His response, “guys, just one problem, don’t know how to play football.”
Sure, weightlifting is more difficult than powerlifting and requires more skill. If you don’t think so, try to teach someone who has never lifted a weight how to deadlift. They’ll have the technique down in a day. Try that again, only with the snatch. Powerlifting is “easier”. The trick lifts vs the half lifts. So what, different sports. They both use barbells and require strength, that’s it.
Regarding injuries, are we talking about competition, or training, or both? After personally attending hundreds of weightlifting meets and dozens of powerlifting meets, this is what I saw:
Weightlifting- ruptured patellar/quad tendons, dislocated elbows (which seems to have increased with the advent of wider grip snatches and jerks, and maybe the move away from standard conditioning movements, like curls), dislocated shoulders, torn meniscus (almost always the foot slipped in the jerk), and fractured or dislocated wrists (usually catching the elbow on the knee in the clean).
As seen, usually the injury is due to a technical error, weight out of position, the ballistic nature of the lifts, or some type of fluke thing. Sometimes, not often, it is someone trying an unreasonable weight. Not often though, jumps in weightlifting are pretty small.
Powerlifting- ruptured pecs (much more common with the bench shirt), bicep ruptures and patellar/quad tendon ruptures. Sometimes, the positioning utilized to reduce bar travel is part of the problem.
In powerlifting, I don’t think technical errors enter into the equation as much. Often, it’s simply trying way too much, possibly due to the larger jumps powerlifters take.
I’m not sure it is fair to compare the two in this manner. However, if I had to pick the one that is safer, it would be powerlifting.