Preparation vital to avoid costly sporting injuries

PLAYERS injured in four of WA’s most popular sports are costing the State an estimated $4.85 million a season, a newly-released WA Sports Injury Study has found.

Injured players, the State’s health system and WA businesses have to foot this bill each year in terms of medical treatment, time off work and loss of productivity.

Together this equates to an average $251 for every injured hockey, netball, basketball and Australian Rules player every season, money which could be saved if players took part in simple warm-up and cool-down activities.

The study, undertaken by Sports Medicine Australian and the University of WA, is the first ever to look at the effects of sports injuries at a community level.

“In the past, all studies have looked at the elite level of sport where injuries are much higher … nobody has ever examined the effects of sports injuries at a population level,” UWA Injury Research Centre Associate Professor Mark Stevenson said.

“And since there is a huge push to get the Australian public to become more active, we wanted to find out how big a problem sports injuries were and what measures could be taken to reduce them.”

The study followed 1512 participants from the Perth metropolitan area through the 1997 and 1998 playing seasons.

During the two seasons, sports injuries among the participants resulted in total costs of $171,800 and the average cost per injury was $103.

Extrapolated to include all of the hockey, netball, basketball and football players, the cost rises to $9.7 million over the two seasons.

Not surprisingly, football accounts for 42 per cent of these costs due to the high contact nature of the sport. Netball is second, due to its high participation rate.

Seventy per cent of the participants sustained at least one injury during the study periods and, while most were minor and required a minimal amount of treatment, many strains and tears could have been avoided by a greater attention to warming up and cooling down. Only 60 per cent of participants took part in cool down exercises, yet the study found that the often-overlooked activity could reduce the risk of injury for male participants by 7 per cent.

The study will now be used by Sports Medicine Australia as a basis for a review of its education programs.

“This report will enable SMA to review existing education programs and make any possible changes or create new programs that will help to reduce injuries in sport at a community level,” SMA WA executive officer Anne Johnston said.

“And as those who have been injured are more likely have repeat injuries, the report will help us develop programs to prevent the first incident and keep people playing sport longer. Of course the spin-off from that is a healthier population overall.”

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