A sports injury can occur while playing or training in organised and non-organised sport and during other types of physical exercise. A sports injury can occur suddenly following a fall, collision with another person, impact with an object, overexertion leading to a muscle strain or a repetitive strain injury.
Many Australians are engaged in sport, with over 82% participating in weekly sports or physical activity in 2019 (ASC 2021a), and view media coverage of sports with high impact collisions and injuries. Injuries in elite players are monitored by dedicated teams to reduce and rehabilitate injuries to manage health and ensure long-term success. In contrast, little is known about the types of sports injuries experienced by the remainder of the Australian population, unless an injury is very severe and results in a hospital admission.
There are physical and mental health benefits from participating in sport. These benefits, to individuals and the health system, also carry a risk of a sports injury occurring. Without better data, it is hard to establish the overall balance of benefits and risks that comes with sports participation and learn what is needed to prevent injury.
Data gaps and opportunities
Australia currently lacks a national data collection that can provide information about the frequency and cause of sports injury to inform injury prevention activities and provide evidence on the risks and benefits of participation. Both injury prevention and increased participation can contribute to better health outcomes. More detailed and high-quality information can indicate where injury prevention activities are most needed and of most benefit to the population.
In recognition of this data gap, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has been commissioned by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) to investigate the feasibility of developing a National Sports Injury Data Asset (NSIDA). The proposed data asset would capture information on sport injuries and their contexts, to inform research, policy and prevention programs, providing a reliable evidence base on which to improve the safety in sport. Undertaking data improvement activities, such as reporting using available data sources, developing data sources and linkage of data sources, will require considerable resources. Future work will need to carefully consider the availability of data for reporting across key areas from existing data sources, balanced against the costs and benefits of undertaking data activities to improve data on community sports injuries in order to better support injury prevention and increased participation.
This National Sports Injury Data Strategy (the ‘strategy’) describes the development of an NSIDA and consultation with community sports and researchers. The strategy builds on previous sports injury work done to support better data collection in Australia. Improvements in data collection platforms and IT systems and new government initiatives in the injury prevention landscape, in particular leading up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympics, make this an opportune time to invest in the development of an NSIDA.
The strategy seeks broader consultation to ensure that the data benefit individuals, sport organisations and researchers. The NSIDA also needs to be sustainable, secure and efficient with regards to the demands of data collection and help support a culture of injury and incident reporting to enable organisations to respond appropriately and reduce the chance of injury and its consequences for participants.