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Injury Prevention Symposium, Day 1, Session 2 Recap: 5th Annual Injury Prevention Symposium Begins with Panel on Use and Translation of Data for Injury Prevention April 28, 2021

The 5th Annual Injury Prevention Symposium, a partnership between Steadman Philippon Research Institute (SPRI) and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) began today. Due to concerns from COVID-19, the symposium was held virtually again this year with hundreds of practitioners in attendance. 

The second session focused on how the use and translation of data can help in the prevention of injury. There were three speakers, beginning with Lauren Benson, PhD, Associate Data Scientist, USOPC, member of the U.S. Coalition for the Prevention of Illness and Injury in Sport and Faculty member in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. Benson spoke about what wearable technology can tell us about how much and how well athletes move.

Benson shared that most of her research was performed at the University of Calgary and the concepts learned there are being applied at the USOPC.

Early in the research, some of the most common devices were heart rate monitors and GPS. Over time her research group added accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers and more.

Something new the USOPC is currently testing with USA Bobsled is trying to prevent what they call “sled head,” or head injuries.
“We started a pilot program in which the athletes are wearing mouth guards instrumented with accelerometers,” said Benson. “By placing them in the mouth on the jaw, they get really close to the skull of the athletes. We can get a really clear idea of what's happening in terms of accelerations at the head. I'm excited to see where this project goes forward in terms of identifying what types of accelerations these athletes are experiencing and what types of interventions we can do to help prevent head injuries in the sport.”

The next speaker in the session spoke about what she called “the injury puzzle,” and translating data to improve athlete health. 

Charlotte Baker, DrPH, MPH, CPH, of Virginia Tech, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Department of Population Health Sciences, and the Virginia Tech Faculty of Health Sciences Data and Decisions Destination Area, first explained that the process of data translation is taking data from one form and changing it to another so others can understand and ultimately use the information to help prevent injuries. 

“One of the greatest things we think in public health is let's prevent, prevent, prevent,” said Baker. “We know that we can't prevent every injury from occurring, but we do know that if we translate our data the right way, we translate it to the right people, we can make a huge difference and stop a lot of our injuries from occurring. We can also make sure that if our athletes are injured, we get them back on the field faster and better than they were before. And that's really the ultimate goal.” 

Baker pointed out that injury prevention has many different puzzle pieces, including medical records, emergency departments, hospitals, ambulatory care centers and even the weather. There are also community policies in place regarding rules that affect each sport differently. But at the center of it all is the athlete and preventing an injury.

“When we think about this, when we work together, when we have that cross collaboration, we can make anything happen if we translate our data and really work with each other,” said Baker.

The final speaker in the session was Dr. Avinash Chandran, PhD, MS who serves as Director of the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program at the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His talk focused on female athletes’ health over their lifespan, using insights from sports injury surveillance and a general health survey of former female athletes. 

“We’ve historically tended to focus efforts on athlete health over their career spans rather than over their lifespans,” said Chandran. “It’s quite important to acknowledge that athletes continue to carry on with normal activities of daily living for years beyond their sporting careers. There’s a genuine need to better understand athlete health beyond their career spans and over their lifespans to better configure prevention for the former athlete.”

All of today’s expert speakers focused on injury prevention regardless of sport or stage of life and Dr. Baker may have summed up the session best when she quoted Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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