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The importance of preventing head/neck injuries in Australian football is well recognised but accurate data are required. In large scale epidemiological studies, the collection of reliable data at many different locations at once is difficult. Different strategies have been used to collect injury data, including self report surveys, injury recall reports from the treatment/first aid providers, and on site primary data collectors (PDCs). We wanted to assess the accuracy of a two week injury recall by treatment/first aid providers, compared with injuries reported on site at the football field on the same day.
We monitored head/neck/dental injury in community Australian football during the 2001 playing season. At each game and training session, PDCs (usually the team sports trainers) from nine clubs recorded the body region, nature, and treatment of injury on a standardised data collection form. A phone call was also made to the PDC within two weeks of the injury to confirm the injury details. Twenty nine head/neck/dental injury cases were recorded. The on site injury records were matched with the telephone information to calculate the level of agreement (% agreement).
In all cases, there was only missing or very non-specific information for the data collected by phone (35% of body region details, 35% nature of injury, and 14% of treatment details were incomplete). For cases with full data at both data collection points, there was 95% agreement for both the body region and nature of injury and 96% for the treatment received.
The high level of incomplete data at follow up is probably due to the PDC’s poor recall, as there was some time lapse between injury and audit. PDCs were volunteers without a medical background, but they did have a good recall of the treatment that was provided on site. Often the original data form was the only injury record, so asking PDCs to recall information for the audit may have been difficult if they could not remember the original injury details.
This study shows that to collect complete and accurate information from sports trainers, data should be collected on site and not rely on their accurate recall. From the perspective of injury prevention and sports safety, the clubs acknowledged that they did not keep good medical records for each of their players, which was something that they wanted to develop for future football seasons.