We’re still very much in the throes of summer, but it won’t be long before students around the country begin to head back to school. Many of those students will be participating in youth sports, either through their school or various clubs that offer such activities. As such, it’s important that schools, coaches, and administrators do whatever they can to ensure kids are safe.
Schools can start by reviewing the guidelines recently introduced by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Back in June, a meeting of NATA and a subsequent press conference sought to draw attention to these safety suggestions, which if put into place, may go a long way toward protecting students from dangerous circumstances.
The University of Connecticut’s director of athletic training explains that there are more high school athletes who die on an annual basis than any other age group, possibly because there are more athletes of high school age than any other demographic. An estimate from one of the individuals responsible for the guidelines estimates there are 7 million such athletes around the country.
Last year, 40 fatalities could be attributed to high school sports, according to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, but it’s believed that those numbers would be over three times as high if athletes from younger age groups were taken into account.
The guidelines were deemed necessary due to a lack of governing authority over high school sports at the national level. Without such a body, NATA took matters into its own hands in order to prevent needless death and serious injury.
So what are the guidelines exactly? Some are relatively straightforward, such as making a defibrillator available for all sporting events and practices so that prompt medical intervention could be had following a cardiac arrest. A University of Washington medical professor and Seattle Seahawks physician says the cost of such could be offset with a simple bake sale.
Other considerations should be given to athletes who are operating while summer heat is still bearing down. Exercise should slowly increase in intensity at the same rate that the temperature drops, and any athletes who appear to be lagging should be seen to and rested so that they don’t suffer a heat-induced illness or overexertion strain. Still other guidelines stress the necessity of keeping an athlete’s head immobile following a stunning hit and removing the helmet with a screwdriver rather than risking further injury by pulling it off.
The availability of athletic trainers is also encouraged, with the goal of having one employed at every high school in the country. Early findings from the Corey Stringer Institute suggest that 64% of schools currently have access to a trainer. Although those numbers are higher than previous estimates, many schools still lack access to a qualified trainer. As many as four in five fatalities occurred at schools that did not have a trainer readily available.