Sports Injury Forecasting and Complexity: A Synergetic Approach.

Fonseca, S. T., Souza, T. R., Verhagen, E., van Emmerik, R., Bittencourt, N. F. N., Mendonça, L. D. M., et al. (2020)


The understanding that sports injury is the result of the interaction among many factors and that specific profiles could increase the risk of the occurrence of a given injury was a significant step in establishing programs for injury prevention. However, injury forecasting is far from being attained. To be able to estimate future states of a complex system (forecasting), it is necessary to understand its nature and comply with the methods usually used to analyse such a system. In this sense, sports injury forecasting must implement the concepts and tools used to study the behaviour of self-organising systems, since it is by self-organising that systems (i.e., athletes) evolve and adapt (or not) to a constantly changing environment. Instead of concentrating on the identification of factors related to the injury occurrence (i.e., risk factors), a complex systems approach looks for the high-order variables (order parameters) that describe the macroscopic dynamic behaviour of the athlete.

The time evolution of this order parameter informs on the state of the athlete and may warn about upcoming events, such as injury. In this article, we describe the fundamental concepts related to complexity based on physical principles of self-organization and the consequence of accepting sports injury as a complex phenomenon. In the end, we will present the four steps necessary to formulate a synergetics approach based on self-organization and phase transition to sports injuries. Future studies based on this experimental paradigm may help sports professionals to forecast sports injuries occurrence.