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Predicting future physical injury in sports: it's a complicated dynamic system
  1. Chad Cook
  1. Duke University, Physical Therapy, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Chad Cook, Duke University, Physical Therapy, 2200 W Main St B230 Durham, NC 27705; USA; chad.cook{at}duke.edu

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What does sport injury risk have to do with weather forecasting and predicting who will be the next President of the USA? Everything! The commonalities are that each occurs within a dynamic system. If you know how dynamic systems work, you will better predict sports injuries.

A dynamic system is an environment that depends on internal and external factors to attain stability.1 Organisms/participants/traits within a dynamic system adapt and change when factors within the system change. Scientists routinely predict risk in a variety of dynamic systems such as weather, political forecasting and projecting traffic fatalities. Ideally, the modelling for each forecasting model involves sophisticated statistical assessment, complex/multiple simulation studies, allowances of time-related changes and distinctly large sample sizes.

What about sports injuries? Predictive models used in dynamic systems identify predictors in a changing environment, in which outcomes are influenced by both the baseline characteristics (the predictors) and external environmental mediators (other factors, unaccounted for at baseline). Sports injuries occur within a dynamic system and our attempts at predicting injury have ignored the dynamic nature of the system (eg, changes in strength or accounting for factors such as physical contact injuries). We assumed that baseline characteristics such as strength, balance and flexibility would predict an injurious event, independent of their internally driven change and often independent …

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