The Efficacy of Injury Prevention Programs in Adolescent Team Sports: A Meta-analysis

Am J Sports Med. 2016 Sep;44(9):2415-24. doi: 10.1177/0363546515618372. Epub 2015 Dec 16.


Background: Intensive sport participation in childhood and adolescence is an established cause of acute and overuse injury. Interventions and programs designed to prevent such injuries are important in reducing individual and societal costs associated with treatment and recovery. Likewise, they help to maintain the accrual of positive outcomes from participation, such as cardiovascular health and skill development. To date, several studies have individually tested the effectiveness of injury prevention programs (IPPs).

Purpose: To determine the overall efficacy of structured multifaceted IPPs containing a combination of warm-up, neuromuscular strength, or proprioception training, targeting injury reduction rates according to risk exposure time in adolescent team sport contexts.

Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods: With established inclusion criteria, studies were searched in the following databases: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science, EMBASE, CINAHL, and AusSportMed. The keyword search terms (including derivations) included the following: adolescents, sports, athletic injuries, prevention/warm-up programs. Eligible studies were then pooled for meta-analysis with an invariance random-effects model, with injury rate ratio (IRR) as the primary outcome. Heterogeneity among studies and publication bias were tested, and subgroup analysis examined heterogeneity sources.

Results: Across 10 studies, including 9 randomized controlled trials, a pooled overall point estimate yielded an IRR of 0.60 (95% CI = 0.48-0.75; a 40% reduction) while accounting for hours of risk exposure. Publication bias assessment suggested an 8% reduction in the estimate (IRR = 0.68, 95% CI = 0.54-0.84), and the prediction interval intimated that any study estimate could still fall between 0.33 and 1.48. Subgroup analyses identified no significant moderators, although possible influences may have been masked because of data constraints.

Conclusion: Compared with normative practices or control, IPPs significantly reduced IRRs in adolescent team sport contexts. The underlying explanations for IPP efficacy remain to be accurately identified, although they potentially relate to IPP content and improvements in muscular strength, proprioceptive balance, and flexibility.

Clinical relevance: Clinical practitioners (eg, orthopaedics, physical therapists) and sports practitioners (eg, strength and conditioners, coaches) can respectively recommend and implement IPPs similar to those examined to help reduce injury rates in adolescent team sports contexts.

Keywords: injury prevention programs; injury reduction rates; team sports; youth and adolescence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Youth Sports / injuries*
  • Youth Sports / statistics & numerical data