Public health

Call to prioritise sports injury prevention

Orthopaedic, rheumatology and sporting experts are urging the federal government to prioritise an injury prevention program targeting 12-25 year olds playing high-risk sports.

The consortium of experts says a neuromuscular conditioning program that specifically addresses the prevention of lower limb injuries would save the health system more than $277 million a year in direct medical costs related to costly anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury treatments alone.

In a submission to the public consultation on the National Sports Plan Arthritis Australia said the training was ‘simple’ and could be implemented by trainers and coaches at a low cost.

Its modelling estimates that the program would prevent some 3,764 lifetime ACL ruptures, 842 lifetime cases of osteoarthritis and 584 total knee replacements for every 100 000 participants.

“All organisations that conduct sports training (for children, communities and elite athletes) have a duty of care to incorporate injury prevention training into their programs, given the proven effectiveness of these simple techniques,” the group argued.

According to the group the number of knee reconstructions for traumatic injury has skyrocketed in the under 25 age group increasing by 74% since 2000. Alarmingly, the greatest increase is occurring in young adolescents aged less than 14 years.

It added that up to 70% of people who experience knee injuries will develop knee osteoarthritis within 10-15 years, increasing their risk of disability and joint replacement at an early age.

Without agility training, 9.4% of high-risk Australian sports players particularly those who play Australian rules football, rugby, soccer and netball will go on to rupture their ACL and 16.8% will develop knee OA, the submission said.

It claims replacing traditional warm up practices with a 15-20 minute neuromuscular training program, which typically consists of a structured warm up, and balance, stretching, strength and agility training undertaken two or three times a week, could reduce the risk of ACL injury by up to 60%.

What’s more in other countries where neuromuscular conditioning sports injury programs have already been rolled ankle sprains have dropped by 50% and lower limb injuries are down 39%, the group added.


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