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Texting Wounds: Is SMS the Future of Sports Medicine Research?

Sports are an enormously popular pastime; recreational sports constitute a huge proportion of participation in sports. And yet, likely due to the lack of attention placed on sports at the recreational level, injuries in community level sports garner little attention. More importantly, injuries from recreational sports often go unreported, creating a large gap in the store of information available on sports-related injuries.

This may not seem like a significant issue, but it represents a large problem for the field of sports medicine research. Researchers lack information on a large proportion of participants in sports, skewing the tendencies of their data towards more elite levels of sports participation, which may produce different figures. Without accurate information on injuries in sports at the community level, researchers are hard-pressed to develop strategies to prevent injuries for recreational participants. Moreover, recreational sports feature different styles of training and playing as well as different players from professional-level sports, so strategies used to prevent injuries in major leagues may not work as well in community-level sports.

Thankfully, there appears to be a solution: texting. Christina Ekegren, a doctoral candidate at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has launched a study to test the ability of texting to help researchers gather accurate data on sports-related injuries at the recreational level. Ekegren conducted her study on football players for the 18-week duration of the 2012 season using 139 recruits from four different Australian community clubs. One or two days after each weekly match, participants received a text message asking if they had any new injuries to report. When they texted back "yes," the researchers called them to discuss the details.

Over the course of the study, this method totalled to 2,516 texts sent by Ekegren and her colleagues, in response to which 92 participants reported 171 injuries. Texting proved to be a fairly effective mode of keeping up to date with the football players; the rate of response hovered between 90 and 98 percent, and responses were rapid. The abundance of data collected by Ekegren and her team as well as the high rate of response show texting to hold great potential for sports medicine research.

This program was, of course, only a trial; further development is needed before similar models can be more broadly implemented. One problem facing researchers is the amount of human contact still involved in Ekegren's model; while the program was fairly efficient, it still entailed a researcher calling each participant who reported an injury, each time they had a new injury. Further development may seek to make the process more automated so as to save labor hours.

Ultimately, sports medicine researchers may also seek to find a means of efficiently gathering real-time data to ensure speed, accuracy, and efficiency of data collection and use. Whether this direction is one that also relies on texting, it is clear that text messaging has a lot to offer to the realm of sports medicine research.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 


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