An Oregon State University study indicates that injury prevention programs are not being widely used in high schools. In a university news release, lead author Marc Norcross, assistant professor of exercise and sport science in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, states that researchers surveyed a total of 66 head soccer and basketball coaches from 15 Oregon high schools. They found 21% of the coaches were using an injury prevention program and less than 10% were using the program exactly as designed.

The release notes that from 2013 to 2014, it is estimated that more than 1.7 million students competed in high school soccer and basketball in the United States. During that period, about 335,000 of the athletes had a lower-extremity injury that required medical attention and kept them from participating for at least 1 day.

While they may vary in structure and content, the release says many injury prevention programs include similar activities, such as strength exercises, cutting/jumping drills, and balance exercises with a focus on proper technique.

During their study, OSU researchers reportedly sought to determine whether high school coaches were aware of existing injury prevention programs, if they were using a program, and if not why not. The researchers focused primarily on soccer and basketball since lower extremity injuries are common in those sports and are not usually caused by direct contact with another player.

The results indicate that half of the boys and girls coaches were aware of existing injury prevention programs. Coaches of girls’ teams were more likely to be aware of the programs than coaches of boys’ teams. Additionally, the results suggest less than half of the coaches perceived lower extremity injuries to be an issue for their team.

The release states that while most of the coaches surveyed were not using a formal injury prevention program, about two-thirds of the coaches, or 65%, said they use activities similar to those found in such programs. Norcross theorizes that this may be one reason as to why they are not adopting a specific program.

The release reports that researchers are not certain if it is specific components of the programs that lead to fewer injuries, or if it is the combination of several strategies.

“When a coach says, ‘I already do most of those things, isn’t that enough?’ — the answer is, we don’t know. Maybe that is good enough. We need to find that out,” Norcross says.

According to the release, OSU researchers are now working on a related study designed to investigate high school athlete injury data in relation to coaches’ injury prevention practices.

The study should help researchers understand whether specific practices, or injury prevention programs as a whole, are helping to reduce injuries, Norcross says.

“For too long, we’ve been waiting for the perfect program to be developed,” he said. “There’s more we don’t know than we do. But we should use the little we do know while we continue to learn more,” Norcross adds.

[Source(s): Science Daily, Oregon State University]