Although the health benefits of regular physical activity are well documented, injury must be recognized as a significant side effect of sports. In fact, every sixth injury treated in Norwegian hospitals is caused by sports.
To promote physical activity effectively, we have to deal professionally with the health problems of the active patient. This obviously means providing effective care for the injured patient, but also actively promoting injury prevention measures.
In Norway, soccer and team handball account for more injuries than other sports; 33% of all sports injuries occur while playing soccer, while 12% result from team handball. This does not necessarily mean that soccer and team handball are the most dangerous sports, but also reflect their status as the most popular participation sports in Norway.
All injuries are not serious, but soccer and team handball as well as alpine skiing/snowboarding lead to an alarmingly high rate of serious knee injuries, especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. A women’s elite team handball team is likely to lose one player each season to an ACL injury.
These injuries are a serious concern, not only because they cause a significant time loss from sport and work, but they also lead to a significant increase in the risk of early osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, it seems that not even modern surgical reconstruction methods can prevent future disability after an ACL injury.
Our ability to prevent injuries is seriously hampered by our lack of understanding of the mechanisms causing injury. In particular, we have had little information on how to prevent serious knee injuries or how to develop other preventive measures which can be implemented in the most popular Norwegian sports. We also need more research on the injury patterns and injury mechanisms in trend sports such as snowboarding.
Research on sports injury prevention has been limited, and the information we typically have obtained from descriptive projects outline injury incidence, patterns, and severity. However, these studies have not been designed to provide in-depth information on injury mechanisms and risk factors, which is needed in order to propose relevant preventive measures. A concerted long-term research effort on risk factors, injury mechanisms and prevention programs is required.