If coaches are to deliver sports safety programmes, they need to be taught the HOW not just the WHAT

Cross Fertilising Injury Prevention (IP) and the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM)

There is irrefutable evidence that injury prevention efforts will only work if the people they are intended for, such as sports participants, actually adopt them (e.g. Finch, 2006). More recently, however, it has become recognised that whether or not they do so, depends on the influence of significant others or specific delivery agents, such as the coaches who organise and deliver training sessions for the athletes they are responsible for (e.g. Finch et al. 2011).

Most athletes only do what their coaches ask them to do during training sessions; nothing else. This becomes a problem for injury prevention if the coaches do not know how to delivery safety programmes to their players. It also reinforces the need for targeted coach education to ensure they are fully informed and equipped to deliver training programs.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) Volume 48, Issue 5 includes an article from my own research team (White et al.) on exactly this topic. We asked coaches from a popular team sport in Australia to tell us what would most encourage them to deliver sports safety programmes. The coaches were generally supportive of safety programmes but were less interested in knowing the rationale behind the composition of those programmes. But, most importantly, they also told us two main things:

  • they need to know that other coaches are already doing it (so it CAN be done)


  • they want to learn from prominent coaches who are already doing it about how they are doing it (i.e. HOW it is done).

To adequately skill-up the workforce of coaches who could deliver safety programmes in sport will require improved coach education that focusses as much on “exactly how do I implement safety programmes” as on “what programmes should I be delivering”.

I would not be surprised at all for this to also apply to the training of any sort of professional for the delivery of safety programmes in all injury prevention contexts.


Caroline Finch is an injury prevention researcher and Head of the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) within the Federation University Australia located in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. She specialises in two areas: (1) sports injury surveillance and research methodologies and (2) 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 the Statistical Editor for Injury Prevention; both journals are published by the BMJ Group. Caroline can be followed on Twitter @CarolineFinch.

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