Monday, March 31, 2008

Making Injury Stats Happen

Here is a comment that Dreadnought left on my last post about injury stats:
I definitely see how seeing the numbers over time would help. However, I wonder how it could be put into practice. Would a simple form for each injury be be enough (date, type of activity, type of drill, coach name, etc.) and how minor an injury would need to be considered? I would imagine that doing this well would be a bit of an undertaking, so I would imagine that the next logical step would be to consider the "hows" after thoroughly canvasing the "why's".
I like the way you think! So, just off the top of my head, here is one way that this could be carried out.
  • Make a blank form that can be easily photocopied and keep a bunch of them in your coaching bag or wherever it will always be at your practices/bouts/events
  • Come up with some sort of rule about when to record an injury. This can be tricky because what seems like a minor injury at practice may turn out to be something more serious and skaters sometimes don't want to make a big deal. If you have a rule, then you're never in a situation where you are asking the skater to tell you whether the injury is serious or not. I suggest recording any injury that takes a skater out of a drill or jam, that requires ice, or that involves blood.
  • I also suggest making sure it is clear who is in charge of recording this info. The coach might be a good start, but coaches are often super busy during practices and may not have the time to do this. Maybe an assistant coach, a manager, or whoever wants to be in charge.
  • You could have the form only be filled out when there is an injury. This is clearly more convenient (and easier to convince people to do). It would be better, however, if data was collected for every practice, even those when no injuries occur. This would insure consistency in your records. If someone has to sit down after every practice and spend 15 seconds checking a box that says "no injuries," then there will be less of a chance for injuries to be missed when practice runs late and everyone has to run out the door afterwards. And it is much more convincing evidence if there is ever a problem with insurance or what-have-you.
  • Follow-up is also important. Include something on your form that has to be filled out a week later (or whatever) to check-in with your skater and make sure you've recorded the outcome (thus far). Did they see a doctor? Did it get worse later on? Are they missing practice because of it? Do they have any restrictions? This is the sort of thing that a good coach would ask about anyway, but having a record of it will come in handy later on (when you might have forgotten the specifics). For instance, if the skater needs to fill out some form for their health insurance, they can go back to that record and get the details that may have been forgotten.
That's about it. I was going to try and make up a sample form that people could use, but it's taking too long and I thought it would be better to just post this first.

While I was meandering my way through the internet, I found a website that sells some kind of sports injury management software to keep track of this sort of thing. And they had a very nice summary of why keeping track of injury statistics can be helpful, basically saying the same things I said in my last post, but a little more concisely:

  • Provide information about the nature and amount of injury within a sport
  • Identify those sub populations competing who are at greater risk of injury e.g. different playing positions may have differing risks for certain injuries
  • Produce information to allow for the planning of resources needed to manage and treat Sports injuries
  • Evaluate risk factors for injury
  • Show the differences in injury incidence and injury severity for a variety of different sub sets of the athletic population
  • Allow a Governing body to demonstrate their commitment to participant safety by monitoring and analysing the injuries encountered
  • Be used as a starting point for a more system tailored to a specific situation. For example looking at the effect, playing surface has on injury incidence for the same athlete exposure.
A specific SIS system can
  • Look at the impact of athletic equipment on injury incidence / prevalence and or severity.

E.g. the impact of different shoe wear on running injury
The impact of ankle braces on ankle injury etc

  • Examine the effect of different playing maneuvers on injury incidence e.g. spear tackling now banned in American Football following an injury surveillance program
  • Provide information to implement injury prevention strategies aimed to improve participant safety but not reduce sporting enjoyment
  • Give a closer understanding of the etiological factors responsible for changes in incidence and prevalence of injury providing controls are in place
  • Allow guidelines of good practice to be generated improving athletic injury management
  • Evaluate economic results of athletic injury
  • Direct costs = (cost of x-ray specialist time operations etc)
  • Indirect Costs = Expenditure incurred due to loss of productivity (5 fewer goals scored during season) or athlete now at potentially greater risk of re injury (less time spent competing)
  • Be tailored to any particular user requirements providing adequate controls can be put in place

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