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      From monocausality to systems thinking: a complementary and alternative conceptual approach for better understanding the development and prevention of sports injury.

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          Abstract

          The science of sports injury control, including both its cause and prevention, has largely been informed by a biomedical and mechanistic model of health. Traditional scientific practice in sports injury research has routinely involved collapsing the broader socioecological landscape down in order to analyse individual-level determinants of injury - whether biomechanical and/or behavioural. This approach has made key gains for sports injury prevention research and should be further encouraged and allowed to evolve naturally. However, the public health, Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics, and injury epidemiological literature more broadly, has accepted the value of a socioecological paradigm for better understanding disease and injury processes, and sports injury research will fall further behind unless it does the same. A complementary and alternative conceptual approach towards injury control known as systems thinking that builds on socioecological science, both methodologically and analytically, is readily available and fast developing in other research areas. This review outlines the historical progression of causal concepts in the field of epidemiology over the course of the modern scientific era. From here, causal concepts in injury epidemiology, and models of aetiology as found in the context of sports injury research are presented. The paper finishes by proposing a new research agenda that considers the potential for a systems thinking approach to further enhance sports injury aetiological understanding. A complementary systems paradigm, however, will require that sports injury epidemiologists bring their knowledge and skillsets forwards in an attempt to use, adapt, and even refine existing systems-based approaches. Alongside the natural development of conventional scientific methodologies and analyses in sports injury research, progressing forwards to a systems paradigm is now required.

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          Most cited references 112

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          Concepts of cause and causal inference are largely self-taught from early learning experiences. A model of causation that describes causes in terms of sufficient causes and their component causes illuminates important principles such as multi-causality, the dependence of the strength of component causes on the prevalence of complementary component causes, and interaction between component causes. Philosophers agree that causal propositions cannot be proved, and find flaws or practical limitations in all philosophies of causal inference. Hence, the role of logic, belief, and observation in evaluating causal propositions is not settled. Causal inference in epidemiology is better viewed as an exercise in measurement of an effect rather than as a criterion-guided process for deciding whether an effect is present or not.
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            'Multiple causation' is the canon of contemporary epidemiology, and its metaphor and model is the 'web of causation.' First articulated in a 1960 U.S. epidemiology textbook, the 'web' remains a widely accepted but poorly elaborated model, reflecting in part the contemporary stress on epidemiologic methods over epidemiologic theories of disease causation. This essay discusses the origins, features, and problems of the 'web,' including its hidden reliance upon the framework of biomedical individualism to guide the choice of factors incorporated in the 'web.' Posing the question of the whereabouts of the putative 'spider,' the author examines several contemporary approaches to epidemiologic theory, including those which stress biological evolution and adaptation and those which emphasize the social production of disease. To better integrate biologic and social understandings of current and changing population patterns of health and disease, the essay proposes an ecosocial framework for developing epidemiologic theory. Features of this alternative approach are discussed, a preliminary image is offered, and debate is encouraged.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Inj Epidemiol
                Injury epidemiology
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                2197-1714
                2197-1714
                December 23 2015
                : 2
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sports and its Prevention (ACRISP), Federation University Australia, SMB Campus, PO Box 663, Ballarat, Victoria 3353 Australia.
                Article
                64
                10.1186/s40621-015-0064-1
                4673096
                26691678

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