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, 14 (8), e0221346

General Versus Sports-Specific Injury Prevention Programs in Athletes: A Systematic Review on the Effects on Performance


General Versus Sports-Specific Injury Prevention Programs in Athletes: A Systematic Review on the Effects on Performance

Ashley Plummer et al. PLoS One.


Introduction: Injury prevention programs (IPPs) are an inherent part of training in recreational and professional sports. Providing performance-enhancing benefits in addition to injury prevention may help adjust coaches and athletes' attitudes towards implementation of injury prevention into daily routine. Conventional thinking by players and coaches alike seems to suggest that IPPs need to be specific to one's sport to allow for performance enhancement. The systematic literature review aims to firstly determine the IPPs nature of exercises and whether they are specific to the sport or based on general conditioning. Secondly, can they demonstrate whether general, sports-specific or even mixed IPPs improve key performance indicators with the aim to better facilitate long-term implementation of these programs?

Methods: PubMed and Web of Science were electronically searched throughout March 2018. The inclusion criteria were randomized control trials, publication dates between Jan 2006 and Feb 2018, athletes (11-45 years), injury prevention programs and included predefined performance measures that could be categorized into balance, power, strength, speed/agility and endurance. The methodological quality of included articles was assessed with the Cochrane Collaboration assessment tools.

Results: Of 6619 initial findings, 22 studies met the inclusion criteria. In addition, reference lists unearthed a further 6 studies, making a total of 28. Nine studies used sports specific IPPs, eleven general and eight mixed prevention strategies. Overall, general programs ranged from 29-57% in their effectiveness across performance outcomes. Mixed IPPs improved in 80% balance outcomes but only 20-44% in others. Sports-specific programs led to larger scale improvements in balance (66%), power (83%), strength (75%), and speed/agility (62%).

Conclusion: Sports-specific IPPs have the strongest influence on most performance indices based on the significant improvement versus control groups. Other factors such as intensity, technical execution and compliance should be accounted for in future investigations in addition to exercise modality.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Flowchart for screening and selection of studies according to PRISMA.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Risk of bias assessment of included RCTs.

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Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.