The Number 1 Predictor of Sustaining an Athletic Injury

A parent of a teenage athlete asked me the other day:

“Brett, I keep seeing you talking about injury prevention and keeping our young athletes safe, but what is the one thing that is most likely to cause an injury to my kid?”

This is a great question...and honestly there isn’t a straight answer since every athlete is unique and different…

However, from years of research we now know that the #1 predictor of an athletic injury is history of a previous injury.

In fact, those who have sustained an athletic injury are 2-3 times more likely to sustain another injury.

As a great example, let’s go back to last weeks blog when I introduced you to “Becky,” the 16 year old soccer player and horse trainer.  I saw her on two separate occasions over the course of a couple years.  

She first came in when she was 15 after “tweaking” her knee.  After only a couple appointments she was feeling quite a bit better... and decided on her own to stop coming to PT…. even though we had not completed treatment.

Within 1 year at the start of the next soccer season she was back in the clinic...and shortly on the operating table for an ACL reconstruction.

Now I realize that one example does not mean that everyone who “tweaks” their knee is going to end up with an ACL reconstruction….but it is a good illustration.

So now you are likely thinking “What about a previous injury (especially if healed up) makes an athlete more likely to get another injury?”

Again not a straight-forward answer (in future blog posts I may dig deeper into this heavy topic)….BUT….one component is many athletes (like Becky) return to sport before they are fully ready.

So, how do we know when an athlete is ready to return to sport?  I can tell you this, as a well meaning coach (prior to my PT training), if an athlete wasn’t hobbling around too bad I SUPPOSED that they were ready to return….

But as one of my professors used to always say quoting Mark Twain “Why SUPPOSE when you can KNOW….or better put, Why SUPPOSE when you can TEST?”

The great thing is that we now have some pretty good tests that indicate when an athlete is safe to return to play.

So if you have a young athlete that has had an injury...or keeps having injury...than we can help take the guess work out of when they are safe to return to play.


Look out for next weeks blog where I will be discussing “The one thing that is responsible for ½ of all high school injuries.”