Proper management of risk the way to minimise injury

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Better Life Foundation WA director and Bayswater resident Charles Sultana was only 24 when a fishing trip ended in tragedy and left him a quadriplegic.

The 36-year-old agreed with Mr Lofts and Ms Crowe, saying both the Australian Football and National Rugby League had introduced various rule changes in an attempt to prevent serious head and neck injuries but both were high-impact or high-contact sports, so the risk of serious injury was somewhat greater than in non-contact sports.

‘The key task for administrators is to monitor trends in the style of play. For example, the ducking of a player’s head to earn a free kick or tackling methods and making sure the potential for serious injury isn’t increased,’ Mr Sultana said.

Mr Sultana’s foundation helps improve the lives of people living with a spinal cord injury in Western Australia.

He echoed Mr Lofts’ statement that as in his case, this type of injury was not limited to the field.

‘We saw several permanent spinal cord injuries in the early to mid 2000s which had arisen while athletes were playing these sports but thankfully there haven’t been many cases since.

‘However, quite worryingly, there has been an increase in the number of aquatic-related injuries, particularly at the beach with people being dumped by waves.’

Mrs Crowe said about 8 per cent of spinal injuries were obtained from sporting activities.

‘The number of injuries due to sporting accidents is minimal in comparison to the overall spinal injuries each year,’ she said.

‘Sadly, some spinal injuries are just freak accidents and there is no way of knowing they would occur or prevent them.’

Mr Lofts said in the club’s 64-year history there had not been one case of this type of injury and while everyone should exercise caution, it was important children had the opportunity to be active, develop their skills, grow and integrate into the community.

‘Injuries and accidents are part of all our lives. What we need to understand is how to manage risk while developing skills and knowledge to help with preventing or minimising injury. But we cannot live our lives in a closet,’ he said.