From the safety net to the injury prevention web: applying systems thinking to unravel injury prevention challenges and opportunities in Cirque du Soleil

BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019 Mar 1;5(1):e000492. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000492. eCollection 2019.


Objective: We undertook this qualitative study within an international circus company-Cirque du Soleil-to explore the narrative of artists and the artistic team in regards to injuries and their prevention and to describe the prevention of injuries from a systems thinking lens.

Methods: Focus groups (FG) with artists and semistructured individual interviews with the artistic team were conducted in six selected shows. The structure of the interviews and FGs concerned the themes: 'injury', 'injury-related factors' and 'injury prevention'. Data were analysed through comparative data analysis based on Grounded Theory. Concept mapping and systems thinking approaches were used to design a map of participants' views on how to prevent injuries.

Results: Injury was mainly described based on performance limitation. The factors mostly mentioned to be related to injury occurrence were physical load factors. Many of these factors were said to be connected and to influence each other. Injury prevention was mapped as a multilevel system, composed by artist-related factors (eg, technique and life style) and extrinsic factors (eg, touring conditions and equipment) that integrate different strategies and stakeholders.

Conclusion: Our study reinforces the importance of multilevel injury prevention approaches with shared responsibility and open communication among stakeholders.

Keywords: elite performance; injuries; prevention; qualitative.