New center could provide better information on sports injuries

The NCAA is pushing for higher access to quality data and opportunities for research.

Through the newly formed Datalys Center, college athletes across the country may soon benefit from a vast database of sports injury information.

The Indianapolis-based center will essentially replace the NCAA’s Injury Surveillance System, or ISS, which has collected data from colleges and universities since 1982. The NCAA, along with BioCrossroads and the American College of Sports Medicine, will serve as the center’s partners.

The NCAA is transferring to the center because of its continued push for higher access to quality data and opportunities for research, Datalys Center executive director Troy Hege said.

Although the concept isn’t entirely new, the database will be a greater resource for researchers and others in athletics training and medicine, he said.

Despite the amount and quality of the injury data, Hege said, athletes will benefit in the form of policy changes, training recommendations and other decisions made by trainers and medical personnel.

“At the end of the day, it’s about what sort of value are we providing to medical trainers,” he said.

In the past, Hege added, research revolving around digital data has decreased eye injuries in women’s lacrosse by showing that although not common, eye injuries were serious when they occurred. The NCAA made a rules change after the findings requiring participants to wear protective eyewear.

Postsecondary institutions won’t be forced to contribute to the database, but Hege said he expects schools which utilized the ISS system to migrate to the new system.

The University is one school which currently uses the ISS as its primary injury data records system – and athletics officials expect that data to be transitioned to the new center over an 18-month period.

Director of Athletic Medicine Moira Novak said she hopes the switch goes smoothly, and NCAA involvement in the new project is appealing.

“Sticking with something that has the NCAA’s strength behind it is something that’s attractive to me as an administrator for this program,” she said.

The athletics department doesn’t conduct injury-data research outside of its teams, she said, but groups such as the National Athletic Trainers’ Association analyze broader data to make suggestions and recommendations that the athletics department then considers.

“We can have our own University of Minnesota base experience, but when you’re able to couple that with the larger national information, then it’s a much stronger argument,” Novak said.

In addition to its potential impact on college athletes, the Datalys Center might also try to collect data from youth sports leagues, high schools and other organizations in order to better serve those groups and the public, Hege said – a welcome idea in the eyes of officials in the field.

University kinesiology lecturer Stacy Ingraham, whose dissertation dealt with ACL injuries in female athletes, said a database can lead to findings which can be noticed faster than they could in a nondigital form.

“You can see the trends much quicker,” she said. “Everybody’s health is improved by it.”

The value of the data stored at the center mainly stems from its centralized availability and consistency, rather than its mere existence, Ingraham said.

Following the adage that numbers don’t lie, she added that a centralized database with such a potentially high number of entries will help researchers come to reliable conclusions, which will in turn give both athletes and the public better information to look at for prevention and treatment.

“To me it’s like the Centers for Disease Control for disease,” she said, except for injuries.