Sport and recreational activities are the leading cause of injury in youth, yet there is increasing evidence that many sport-related injuries are preventable. For injury prevention strategies to be effective, individuals must understand, adopt and adhere to the recommended prevention strategy or programme. Despite the recognized importance of a behavioural approach, the inclusion of behavioural change strategies in sport injury prevention has been historically neglected. The purpose of this commentary is to outline the rationale for the inclusion and application of behavioural science in reducing the burden of injury by increasing adherence to proven prevention strategies. In an effort to provide an illustrative example of a behavioural change approach, the authors suggest a specific plan for the implementation of a neuromuscular training strategy to reduce the risk of lower limb injury in youth sport.
Given the paucity of evidence in the sport injury prevention setting, and the lack of application of theoretical frameworks to predicting adoption and adherence to injury preventive exercise recommendations in youth sport, data from the related physical activity promotion domain is utilized to describe how sound, theory-based injury prevention exercise interventions in youth may be developed. While the question of how to facilitate behavioural change and optimize adherence to preventive exercise recommendations remains an ongoing challenge, the authors detail several strategies based on two prominent behavioural theories to aid the reader in conceptualizing, designing and implementing effective interventions.
Despite the minimal application of behavioural theory within the field of sport injury prevention in youth, behavioural science has the potential to make a significant impact on the understanding and prevention of youth sport injury. Appropriate evaluation of adherence and maintenance components based on models of behavioural change should be a critical component of future injury prevention research and practice.