Sept. 17, 2021

Injury prevention strategies reduce injury rates in youth sport

Learn more about sports injury prevention and rehabilitation at this year’s online Wood Forum

Participating in sports can help youth stay active and develop new skills; however, youth sports also present a high risk of injury. A recent survey study reveals staggering sport-related injury rates amongst Alberta youth (aged 14-19) - each year 45% of youth sustain a sport-related injury and within that group, two-thirds will seek medical attention for this sport-related injury.  A large majority of these injuries are lower extremity injuries with a high incidence of ankle and knee joint injuries which can lead to an increased risk of developing post-traumatic osteoarthritis, a condition characterized by damage to the joint’s cartilage that develops in the years following a traumatic injury.

“In addition to the increased risk of developing post-traumatic osteoarthritis, sport-related injuries in youth can lead to lower levels of physical activity, an increased risk obesity, muscle weakness, and poorer balance – compared to uninjured peers - all factors that can increase the risk of subsequent injuries and lead to longer-term health impacts,” explains Dr. Carolyn Emery, PhD, professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and the Cumming School of Medicine, and chair of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre at the University of Calgary.

Dr. Carolyn Emery

With a background in physiotherapy and pediatric rehabilitation, Emery leads research in youth sport injury prevention through identifying risk factors for injury and designing and evaluating strategies to reduce injury rates and prevent long-term consequences of injury.

Injury prevention is critical to ensure youth can stay active and participate in activities well into their adulthood. In understanding the multiple factors in addressing injury prevention, Emery’s research team develops prevention strategies focused on three different targets - sport policy and rule changes, personal protective equipment recommendations, and training-related programs.

The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre team has developed sport-specific training programs focusing on lower extremity injury prevention for sports that present a high burden of injury and participation rates such as soccer, basketball, and hockey. In addition to sport-specific programs, the team developed programs to support teachers in conducting neuromuscular training warm-up programs in school-based physical education classes aimed to reduce injuries in youth sport. The training programs incorporate various neuromuscular training exercise components such as aerobic exercises, balance techniques, agility exercises (landing and jumping), and strength training.

“In incorporating youth injury prevention strategies, specifically neuromuscular training programs, we expect an overall reduction of over 30% in lower extremity injury rates and increasing evidence to support reduction across all injury types, including concussions,” says Emery.

Ongoing research in injury prevention includes measuring the quality of movement in training programs through video analysis and wearable technologies to inform a better understanding of the mechanisms of injury prevention and the relative importance of quality and quantity in neuromuscular training injury prevention programs. 

“Through our research in the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, we consider the specific context and mechanisms of injury and ways to make training programs sustainable, with an overall goal to scale up the implementation of injury prevention programs at the provincial and national level,” says Emery.

Wood Forum 2021 - Sports Injury Prevention

Join us online at this year’s Wood Forum on Saturday, November 6th, to hear from Dr. Carolyn Emery and other researchers about the latest advances in sports injury prevention and rehabilitation strategies. Tickets are free. Register here. 


Carolyn Emery is a professor and the Chair of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology and a professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Community Health Sciences in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. She’s a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute; Hotchkiss Brain Institute; McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health; and O’Brien Institute for Public Health.