When you think of injury prevention you think of things like health and safety at work, you think of gun safety, or traffic and driving safety.
When you think of rehab you think of it in terms of getting back to normal after some sort of accident or illness. So we tend to think of them both at opposite ends of the rainbow.
Sports made all the difference
Anyone who is a runner knows it is not if they get injured, rather it is when they get injured. For athletes, an injury is an occupational hazard and so all the effort that takes place in rehab is only worth so much unless they take steps to ensure the injury does not occur again. Sports being sports, the likelihood something will reoccur is increased when there is a weakness.
Sports as a metaphor for life
In so many ways sports is used to compare life, but in this case, the analogy works well. The connection is sufficiently marked that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) carried out a study way back in 1992 which continues to have relevance today.
CDC approach to injuries
For the layperson, there is nothing remarkable about the CDC’s comment noting injuries are preventable. It is an idea we can readily take on board. What is extraordinary is their statement that injuries do not occur at random.
For most of us, the basic component of an accident is its randomness; something occurred seemingly out of the blue. But if we accept the CDC’s premise injuries are not random we come right back to sports medicine; it is not if, it is when.
The four-stage process
The approach the CDC took was to isolate four steps:
- Define the problem – how big is the problem, where is it, and who is affected?
- Identify Risks and Protective Factors – this step connects why those people are at risk from this injury. Just as importantly, why these people are not affected by this risk?
- Develop and test prevention strategies — With the risks and protections identified, the next step is to create and test plans to mitigate risks and prevent injuries.
- Educate for widespread adoption – the final step is to get the word out. The CDC will work with communities directly, helping with education and may even give funding to help send the message to the target audience.
Closing the circle
Now we can see how injury prevention and rehab are so much closer than the ordinary person would have casually thought. The two are just different sides of the same coin, and while prevention is to be preferred over rehab, we need rehab to stop the reoccurrence of injury.