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January 28, 2019

The Need for an Intervention to Prevent Sports Injuries: Beyond “Rub Some Dirt on It”

Author Affiliations
  • 1Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 3Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(3):215-216. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4602

Although 1.35 million children visit emergency departments for sports-related injuries each year in the United States, athletic bodies lack a systematic approach for monitoring injury risk and adopting interventions to curtail injuries.1 Rather than using randomized clinical trials or other evidence-based approaches to evaluate interventions, the decision-making process for adopting interventions is characterized by protracted debates that overweigh subjective factors, such as how sports have traditionally been played.2,3 The magnitude of this problem merits serious attention; more than 46.5 million children participate in team sports in the United States alone.1 Two underappreciated factors contribute to this situation: behavioral biases that distort and delay intervention decisions and a lack of data. In this Viewpoint, we draw lessons from behavioral economics, as well as prior sports injury intervention debates, to offer prescriptions for improving the decision-making processes for sports injury prevention.