PW 0433 Using opinion leaders to address intervention gaps in concussion prevention in youth sports

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Abstract

Behavioural interventions to prevent concussion in youth sports have largely addressed the individual-athlete level. However, sustainably addressing a public health problem of this magnitude requires a self-propelling cultural shift. This presentation will summarize the Popular Opinion Leader (POL) intervention, which is well-positioned to affect such change. The POL intervention, based on the Diffusion of Innovations framework, involves identifying, recruiting, and training well-respected and trusted individuals to personally endorse prevention and risk-reduction during conversations within their social networks. Key behavioral changes in a population can be initiated and will diffuse to others if enough opinion leaders adopt, endorse, and support the behaviors. POL interventions have been widely used in other public health areas and may be applicable to concussions in youth sports. The presentation will then discuss three factors in youth sports settings and culture that the POL intervention must consider for optimal impact. First, parental involvement is important, given their direct involvement in their children’s medical care and varying opinions on sport, competition, and safety. Second, youth sports are structured around games and practices, which provide unique opportunities for these informal interactions. However, there are a range of motivations for sport participation, which may vary across teams and within teams; for example, the focus of some parents and coaches may more focused on athlete development and competition rather than social networking and interaction. Third, youth sport setting membership is transient as players get older and move to other sport settings; approaches need to be self-sustaining despite this turnover and also capitalize on this opportunity for additional dissemination as opinion leaders transition to new sports settings. The presentation will conclude by discussing how formative research can help assess these integral factors. It is essential that POL principles are translated into the youth sport setting in manners that preserve their fidelity.

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