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Adopting Injury Prevention Programs in High School

Posted November 16, 2016

Tim Koba, MS, ATC
Twitter: @timkoba
Blog: www.timkoba.blogspot.com

By Tim Koba, MS, ATC

Participation in high school athletics carries an intrinsic risk of injury, but that doesn’t mean certain types of injuries can’t be decreased. There has been a proliferation of injury prevention programs. These programs have the ability to improve performance and decrease risk of sustaining certain injuries, especially ACL injuries and ankle sprains. While this information is readily available, there has been some hesitancy to adopt these and similar programs.

In an Oregon survey of high school soccer and basketball coaches, many of the coaches were aware that injury prevention programs existed, but they were not adopting those programs for their own teams.1 Some of their reasons included the belief that what they currently did was similar to the program; their program was superior to the researched program; or they were not aware of how much actual sport performance gains occurred as a result of these programs. Those concerns have validity and merit further discussion.

Many injury programs have similar features that are easy to adopt and implement such as squatting, jumping, cutting and using a balance apparatus. The key with any of these exercises is to focus on form and ensure the athletes are appropriately performing the required task and not going through the motions. Some of the programs are definitely more involved and time consuming and may cut into the limited time available for training. However, before changing or eliminating exercises, it is important to understand the mechanics and rationale behind those exercises and why they were included in the first place. Arbitrarily eliminating exercises can invalidate the program resulting in a failure to achieve the intended prevention outcomes.

A relatively new option for reducing injury risk, improving fitness and performance is to adopt a training program in physical education (PE) classes.2 This exercise vehicle may be a great way to teach fundamental movement skills to adolescents who carry on to their chosen sport. In a study out of Canada, researchers compared a typical PE class with a specific training PE class. The specific training PE class was geared toward the improvement in movement, reduction in injury and had significantly fewer injuries than the control group. The exercises regimen they chose was similar to the FIFA 11+ and included squats, jumps, lunges, planks and running drills. The inclusion of this, or a similar program, in middle and high school may help to decrease on field injury rates during athletic participation.

The potential for injury will always be a part of athletics, but accepting that there is nothing to help prevent injury is not accurate. At this point there are many options to keep players healthy and participating safely. Knowing the common injuries in your chosen sport and available resources are essential for successful participation in athletic endeavors.

Conclusion

- Injury prevention programs can decrease risk for certain injuries and improve performance

- There is hesitancy to adopt these programs despite their proven effectiveness for a variety of reasons

- Implementing a school wide program can help to bridge the gap between player safety in athletics, exercise, fitness and movement

References

1. Norcross, M.F., et. al. (2016). Factors influencing high school coaches’ adoption of injury prevention programs. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 19: 299-304.

2. Richmond, S.A., et. al. (2016). A school based injury prevention program to reduce sport injury risk and improve healthy outcomes in youth: A pilot cluster randomized controlled trial. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(4): 291-298.

About the Author

Tim Koba is an Athletic Trainer, strength coach and sport business professional based in Ithaca, New York. He is passionate about helping others reach their personal and professional potential by researching topics of interest and sharing it with others. He contributes articles on injury prevention, management, rehabilitation, athletic development and leadership.