To address the alarming injury rate in youth footballers in Sweden, the project  Injury-Free Children and Adolescents: Towards Better Practice in Swedish Football  (FIT project) seeks to fill in the knowledge gaps by bringing biomedical and social science together.

With its multi-angled and interdisciplinary approach, the project involves a sample of male and female Swedish football players aged 10 to 19, in order to provide concrete, evidence-based recommendations for injury prevention strategies for the use of sporting federations, sport education institutions, coaches, sport support staff, as well as players.

Having received funding from the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science, the grant proposal is published in the open-access journal  Research Ideas and Outcomes  (RIO Journal). Currently finalizing its data collection stage, FIT project is being conducted at the Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, by Ph.D. student Solveig Hausken, Dr. Natalie Barker-Ruchti, Dr. Astrid Schubring and Prof Stefan Grau.

While injuries in youth athletes could potentially instigate injuries later on in their careers or even force them to drop out of sport, so far, research has focused exclusively on the biomedical perspective and the identification of clinical and mechanical risk factors. However, little is known about the role of socio-cultural risk factors.

Sport-specific dispositions

In contrast, FIT Project turns simultaneously to the disciplines of biomechanics, sports medicine, sports coaching, and sports sociology. The researchers conducted laboratory tests to determine the physical and sport-specific dispositions of each player. 

They handed out questionnaires to register details about the experienced injury; conducted interviews with both coaches and players to shed light on the coaching-training dynamics; made direct observations on the coaching methods and coach-athlete relationships within the sporting context. Each of these sub-studies is meant to produce a separate dataset to be subjected to an interdisciplinary analysis.

Interdisciplinary data analysis

"The FIT project is a rare example of how injury research can integrate biomedical and social science disciplines to produce multiple data sets and an interdisciplinary data analysis procedure," the team explains.

The researchers expect to identify injury risk factors including: growth and maturation; injury history and general health; biomechanical and clinical parameters; training factors such as training intensity and recovery time between training; and contextual factors such as pressure to perform, athletic ideals and knowledge of coaches about injury prevention.

Starting in January 2019, a pilot analysis including the multiple datasets will be conducted. The team will be publishing updates on the FIT  project 's progress on its  website .