How do you get athletes, coaches, and parents to “buy in” to injury prevention?

When it comes to injury prevention, we are all excited, passionate and ready to get started only to hit road blocks: No one seems to want to give it the attention that it deserves. Coaches don’t want to give up valuable practice time, parents can’t fit it into jam packed schedules, and athletes, well, they are athletes!

Over the past 15 years, I have made many failed attempts at implementing injury prevention programs, so I would like to share with you what I have learned. After a great Twitter Chat with #solvePT, I decided to focus this blog post on talking with coaches and parents.

Fallen Tree Blocking Road

Some of the best injury prevention researchers in the world looked back at their injury prevention efforts with a huge cohort of female handball teams over a 10 year period (Mykelbust et al 2013). One of their key findings is that for injury prevention to be successful you “must have the coach as a “partner” in the process”. But how exactly do you do that?

Frequently, because of our passion, we provide too much information and end up sounding like a pushy salesperson. When talking with coaches and parents I suggest breaking it down into several steps:

  • Step #1: Ask, “Can I test your team/athlete to see how they are doing?”  Don’t promise too much. Just mention that there is some good research about the ability to identify athletes at more risk of injury and improve their performance. (Remember: researchers have found that the message should focus on both performance and prevention — also remember that if you are on the bench with an injury, you can’t perform!)
  • Step #2 After testing, don’t say anything. Wait for coach/parent to say: “How did they do?” Now you have some buy in because they are asking the question — you are not pushing information
  • Step #3 Tell them how they did: “I found these risk factors and research indicates that puts them at risk for injury.” Then be quiet. This is THE hardest part!
  • Step #4 Parent/Coach says “Well, what are YOU going to do about it?” I say smiling, “I’m glad you asked.” — Total buy in
  • Step #5 Present your evidence-based injury prevention strategy by changing the modifiable risk factors you tested

While these steps are the best way I have found to have the conversation, it is by no means 100% effective. I think the other key ingredient is persistence. Mykelbust et al said it best:

“persistent effort to promote injury prevention over several years, using every opportunity available”

It can take years to change the culture of any organization. In future posts, I will talk about specific implementation strategies. Sign up for this blog to be sure you get notified when it comes out.

I really want to hear from you. What strategies have you found to be successful to get people on board with your passion?

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Phil Plisky

I want to change peoples lives through dialogue about injury prevention research and return to activity testing.

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