Background Epidemiological studies of injury have mainly been performed on team sports. Present methods for data collection and analysis neglect important features of individual sports.
Aims To develop a study protocol for large-scale epidemiological studies of injuries in individual sports, exemplified by athletics.
Design Structured information system development. Specification of the study protocol was preceded by an examination of requirements on injury surveillance in individual sports and iterated drafting of protocol specifications, and followed by formative evaluations. A preliminary protocol was evaluated in a pilot study involving athletic coaches and athletes and revised into the final version.
Setting Swedish youth and adult elite athletics.
Participants Six elite athletics coaches and 22 athletic athletes.
Results The requirements analysis showed that the central demand on a study protocol to be used for epidemiological surveillance in athletics is to enable detailed analyses of overuse injuries, which subsequently requires continuous and prospective collection of athlete self-reported data. The study protocol fulfils these requirements by using a web-based athlete diary for collection of data regarding exposure to practice and competition as well as injuries. In addition, the requirements analysis showed that the study protocol should cover collection of detailed baseline data, including injury history, subject characteristics and a psychological profile. The evaluation data showed that the preliminary protocol only needed minor revisions at the level of web-questionnaire design.
Conclusion The resulting study protocol for injury surveillance is specifically targeted at individual sports. It can be employed in surveillance preceding intervention programs for preventing injuries and suffering among both adult elite and youth athletes. Electronic data capture is crucial for injury surveillance in individual sports, such as athletics in order to ensure high validity of data.
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