Keep Youth Sports Safety Top of Mind: Guidelines from National Athletic Trainers’ Association
Keep Youth Sports Safety Top of Mind: Guidelines
from National Athletic Trainers’ Association
|Robin Waxenberg||Ellen Satlof|
DALLAS, May 15, 2013 –With the spring sports season well underway and summer preseason practices and youth league games around the corner, young athletes are already enjoying warm weather activities and competition. “Every team and athlete should have sports safety as a top priority,” says Larry Cooper, chair of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Secondary School Committee and head athletic trainer at Penn Trafford (Pa.) High School. “It’s vital for coaches, athletic trainers, parents and the athletes themselves to maintain good communication and follow guidelines to ensure all participants are fit for play.”
NATA hosted the 4th Youth Sports Safety Summit earlier this year with the support of the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, now composed of 109 organizations committed to keeping athletes safe, and launched the first-ever National Action Plan for Sports Safety and Student Athlete Bill of Rights (www.youthsportssafetyalliance.org). “Each athlete is entitled to appropriate care, prevention and treatment of injuries should they occur,” says Cooper.
NATA offers several sports safety tips to keep athletes in the game:
- Make sure the athlete is physically and mentally in the game: Parents, with assistance from coaches, should determine whether their children are physically and psychologically conditioned for the sport/activity level they’re playing. Do not push children into something they do not want to do. Additionally, if an athlete has been injured and is returning to sport, it’s critical for him or her to have the right mind set and confidence to return to play and avoid repeat injury.
- Get a pre-participation exam: All athletes should have a pre-participation exam to determine their readiness to play and uncover any condition that may limit participation.
- Follow a team approach to care: In the case of injury, find out who will provide care and ask to review their credentials. Many schools and sports teams rely on athletic trainers or parents with medical and first aid training and certification to keep kids safe. Yet less than half of high schools have access to athletic trainers.
- Beat the heat: Acclimatize athletes to warm weather activities over a 14-day period. The goal is to increase exercise heat tolerance and enhance the ability to exercise safely and effectively in warm and hot conditions. Should heat illness occur, cool first and transport second: immediate cold water immersion is critical to reducing the athlete’s temperature rapidly. Determine core body temperature to best assess the athlete’s condition.
- Use your head: Athletes should be encouraged to speak up if they are suffering any related symptoms (dizziness, loss of memory, fatigue).Concussions must be carefully managed using follow up assessments of symptoms, neurocognitive function and balance, prior to initiating a gradual return to play. Should a more serious brain injury occur, the medical staff should be prepared to transport the athlete to a facility, while ensuring adequate ventilation and elevating the head to decrease intracranial pressure.
- Maintain Heart health: Recognition is vital to treatment: sudden cardiac arrest should be suspected in any athlete who has collapsed and is unresponsive. Public access to early defibrillation is essential: a goal of less than 3-5 minutes from the time of collapse to delivery of the first shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED) is strongly recommended. Most schools now have AEDS. Ensure that the medical expert and other personnel know where they are located, how to use them and that they are placed on sidelines during competitions and games.
- Share an athlete’s medical history: Parents should complete an emergency medical authorization form, providing parent contact information and permission for emergency medical care for the student athlete. Check with your school/league to obtain the form.
- Ensure equipment is in working order: Make sure all equipment ranging from field goals, basketball flooring, gymnastics apparatus and field turf are in safe and working order. This also includes emergency medical equipment such as spine boards, splint devices, AEDs (which should be checked once per month; batteries and pads need consistent monitoring and replacing). All it takes is a slip on a wet surface or twist of an ankle on an ungroomed field to lead to lower extremity injuries, among others.
- Ascertain coaches’ qualifications: A background check should always be performed on coaches and volunteers:
- Coaches should have background and knowledge in the sport they are coaching. They should be credentialed if that is a requirement in the state, conference or league.
- Coaches should have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), AED and first aid training.
- Coaches should strictly enforce the sports rules and have a plan for dealing with emergencies.
- Ensure appropriate credentials for coaching from the respective sport governing body.
- Coaches can also take an online course by visiting: http://www.nata.org/Sports-safety-for-youth-coaches-course
“It’s critical that all members of a school’s athletic health care team, parents, teachers and others involved in the care of the athlete have ongoing communication to ensure a safe sports setting,” says Cooper. “With those protocols in place, athletes can enjoy the great spirit, competition, and accomplishment that come from safe and fair play.”
“And, if your school is following the right protocols, enter it in the NATA Safe School award program that recognizes schools implementing appropriate steps to keep athletes safe. It is a win-win for students, the athletic health care team and school at large.”
For more information on the award program, visit www.athletictrainers.org.
About NATA: National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) – Health Care for Life & Sport
Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries. Athletic trainers offer a continuum of care that is unparalleled in health care. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 35,000 members of the athletic training profession. Visit www.nata.org.
# # #