07-11-2004, 08:09 PM
Although Australia are indulging in a collective back-patting exercise after the Olympics, led by our power-walking Prime Minister John Howard, some recognition needs to be paid to the fact that we are dividing ourselves into a nation of Olympians and couch potatoes. John Howard was the first in line to hug any Gold medal winner he could find, yet his government has not been interested in policies aimed at making Australians more active or in treating or preventing sports injuries. A recent death arising from a set of portable soccer goal posts falling on a young girl has highlighted the fact that Australia does not undertake any nationwide surveillance of sports injuries, which is an essential component of prevention. New Zealand is far more active at monitoring and treating sports injuries and encouraging their population to be more active than Australia. Read more on this issue at the MJA. Australia loves looking at how high up we are on the medal table for elite performance, yet our government refuses to measure the number of sports injuries that occur in Australia each year or the true numbers of people that are overweight through lack of playing sport. Read about the lack of policy initiative in Australia. In Australia it is all about WATCHING our heroes perform on TV, or, at the other extreme, about treating life threatening illnesses caused by inactivity (heart disease etc.). There is current debate about the relative contributions of diet versus exercise in the obesity epidemic (read an example at the SMH), but little recognition that having policies aimed at reducing sports injuries can encourage increased participation. There is no policy planning to try to encourage lifelong safe participation in sport in Australia, possibly because the importance of this is not fully appreciated. Read a full argument of this issue. However, any excuses that are given for sports medicine not being recognised as a specialty area in Australia and for sports injuries not being counted in Australia fall flat when it is pointed out that both these conditions have existed for many years in New Zealand. Read the latest sports injury stats from New Zealand. Australia has shown that with Federal and state government funding and planning success can be achieved with respect to sports performance - how long will it take before the same energy is put into sports injury prevention and sports participation rates?