Injury prevention in child and adolescent sport: whose responsibility is it?

Clin J Sport Med. 2006 Nov;16(6):514-21. doi: 10.1097/01.jsm.0000251179.90840.58.


Objective: Sport and recreational injuries are a leading cause of morbidity in youth. There is a significant body of literature on risk factors for sport-related injuries and a growing body of research supporting the effectiveness of sport-specific prevention strategies in youth. Given the predictability and preventability of injuries in youth sport, the purpose of this article is to develop a model that considers societal responsibility for injury prevention in youth sport, and to discuss the evidence that supports this model.

Data sources/synthesis: Previously published papers have provided a basis for expert opinion to discuss an approach to examining the shared societal responsibility for implementing countermeasures to reduce the risk of injury to youth during sports.

Results: Based on a historical perspective, broad conceptual framework, and specific evidence for prevention strategies in youth sport, the authors have developed and supported a theoretical model that defines a responsibility hierarchy in preventing injuries in youth sport. An argument has been made for a hierarchy of responsibility, with the lowest level of responsibility assigned to the child, and the highest level to those organizations or groups with the potential to effect the most change. The justification for this approach has been discussed in the context of the desirability of passive prevention strategies, the limited evidence for the effectiveness of strategies relying solely on behavior change in children and parents, and the level of perceptual and cognitive development in children that inadequately prepares them to take primary responsibility for their own safety in sport.

Conclusions: The development of effective programs to reduce the burden of sport injury among youth necessitates a scientific approach, the identification of key risk factors for injury, a thorough examination of how factors interact to affect risk, and the identification of potential barriers to the effectiveness of injury-prevention programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety / standards*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Sports Equipment