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Counting the cost of sports-related injuries in Victoria

Counting the cost of sports-related injuries in Victoria
September 30, 2013

Sports-related injuries have been identified as a major component of accidental injury in Victoria, with over 30,000 Victorians seeking hospital treatment for sports injuries, 10,000 of which required hospitalisation, in 2009.

According to a recent report from the Victorian Government's Sports Injury Prevention Taskforce, sports-related injuries are second only to road traffic injuries in terms of years lost to disability and direct hospital costs while, for children under 15 years, sports-related injuries now represent four times the public health burden when compared to road trauma related costs.

With direct total hospital costs from sports-related injuries estimated at $51.8 million, the cost of all direct medical costs attributable to sports injury in Victoria is estimated to be three times that amount.

In addition, the Sports Injury Prevention Taskforce estimated that each year in Victoria approximately 4,500 people drop out from participation in five of the top team based sports due to sports injuries and fears that, in the absence of effective injury prevention strategies and plans, the net rate of reduction in participation in all organised sport, due to injury related drop out, is expected to reach nearly 20,000 per year by 2020.

The Taskforce, established by the Victorian Government to examine sports injury related barriers that prevent people from leading a more active lifestyle and to provide advice on improving risk management strategies and sports injury prevention, highlighted that the overall contribution of sport to the community is a very positive one.

More than a year in the making, the Taskforce's Final Report, published in March to little fanfare, recognised that programs to boost participation in sport at the grassroots level also results in more people being injured.

However, it established four long term aspirations:

1. To have more people participating in sport and fewer people injured;
2. To ensure people involved in sport are passionate about injury prevention;
3. For sports injury prevention messages to be well understood; and
4. For sports injury prevention to have the same profile and importance as other community safety and public health issues.

The Taskforce's Report provides a set of clear actions aimed at reducing the impact of injury on participation in sport and suggests focusing on the top five participation sports in Victoria Australian football, netball, basketball, cricket and football.

• Key areas and strategies addressed in the report include:
• Increasing the awareness of the benefits of sports injury prevention and management;
• Enhancing the safe participation of children and adolescents;
• Addressing injury in the high participation (team) sports; and
• Improving sport medical emergency response as well as injury prevention planning and practice.

Commenting on the Taskforce's Final Report, Victorian Minister for Sport and Recreation Hugh Delahunty expressed his hope that their work would help separate sports injury myths from the facts, stating "increasing participation in sport, getting people more active more often, is at the top of my agenda and the Victorian Coalition Government in partnership with sports clubs, associations, councils, communities, and the taskforce of experts is working harder than ever to reach that goal."

Recognising that sustaining an injury is one of the major reasons that people stop participation in sport, Minister Delahunty added "we want to make sure sport injuries don't stop people of any age from participating and enjoying all the benefits that an active lifestyle provides.

"When people don't exercise and don't look after themselves the cost to Victorians, individually and collectively, is too high."

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