Sports injury prevention action – approaches from a peak international sports body and getting it onto public health agendas

2012 promises to be another year of substantive sports injury prevention action and what better way to start it than by learning from FIFA, the peak international sports body governing football (or soccer) programs worldwide.

The January 2012 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine includes a paper by Fuller, Junge and Dvorak from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Medical Assessment and of the Research Centre (F-MARC). This paper describes the 17 year history of this peak sports body’s application of risk management approaches towards reducing the risks of injury and ill-health in football.  The F-MARC team have previously widely disseminated the results of their risk management actions in both the scientific literature and direct to their target audience. Components of their risk management approach have included reviewing and revising the laws of the game; maintaining quality standards of its playing surfaces and venues; delivery of injury prevention programs across all levels of the sport; developing best practice procedures, guidelines and protocols across a range of issues; to name a few.

As the Editorial (by Donaldson and Finch) in the same issue puts it “Health and sports promotion experts alike, will need to develop new approaches to help sports bodies, their clubs and other stakeholder groups build capacity to disseminate their messages better.” The FIFA approach to ensuring healthy and safe participation in the sport for all is certainly a model that could be adopted by other sports.  In fact, I am sure that it is no mere coincidence that this sport has such a strong following internationally and ranks as the number one participation sport globally.

The need to engage peak sports bodies in promoting safe participation is critical.  However, it is important that we do not just stop there.  When the aim is broad population health and safety goals, then there is also a clear role for the public health sector to also become involved.  It is often frustrating to me that the importance of sports injury prevention is often left off public health agendas and neither is it always included in broad injury prevention strategies.  A paper authored by me in the same BJSM issue argues that perhaps a key reason for this is that there is a lack of relevant information available for policy makers and others to properly prioritise sports injury amongst other issues and to identify likely cost-effective solutions.  I am hoping that this new year will start to see new and improved communication of relevant information between sports medicine professionals/injury researchers and the policy makers and peak sports bodies responsible for the delivery and supportive of sustainable sports injury prevention.

Caroline Finch is an injury prevention researcher from the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) within the Monash Injury Research Centre, Monash University, Australia.  She specialises in implementation and dissemination science applications for sports injury prevention.  She is the Senior Associate Editor for Implementation & Dissemination for the British Journal of Sports Medicine and a member of the Editorial Board of Injury Prevention; both journals are published by the BMJ Group.  Caroline can be followed on Twitter @CarolineFinch

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