Is a C+ a good grade? According to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance (YSSA) spearheaded by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), Americans are now being graded a C+ when it comes to the safety of youth sports. Coaching education is available, but often not required, as programs tend to lack the legal foundation to educate coaches on their duties as providers of care to minors. The YSSA was created last year to encourage legislative action regarding the safety concerns of our young athletes as they participate in youth sports. After a year of work we have been awarded a C+.
Seven elements that the sports medicine community agrees are imperative to overcome the crisis in youth sport safety include:
- creating a National Sport Injury Registry
- requiring standardized pre-participation physicals
- accessibility to an AED within 5 minutes
- risk management training for all coaches based on the legal standard of care/child safety laws where they diverge from the rules of the game
- head injury prevention with return-to-play guidelines
- heat illness prevention
- a rehearsed catastrophic emergency plan
Ironically, it has been seven years since my own daughter was injured in an unsafe sport environment. While attending the second Youth Sport Safety Summit in Washington DC in December, I reviewed the seven goals again to see how far we have come. First, there is still no national registry for injuries, and little funding for research. While a pre-participation physical form has been developed and agreed upon by alliance members, there is nothing in place to enforce its use. As for accessibility to AEDs, there are 24 states with new laws in place but 26 states are still lagging behind.
With regard to head injury and heat illness prevention, the parents of injured athletes and the NFL have brought awareness to these issues and have come the farthest in this area. Due to higher awareness, programs are being created and implemented; however, there are still no national standards.
In 2008 the National Cheer Safety Foundation released the first catastrophic emergency plan for sport as a free downloadable PDF. Since then it has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and adopted by a number of sport associations, sports medicine organizations, and incorporated in school programs. But even with those impressive numbers, a recent study by USA Sport Safety revealed that only 71% of high schools have an emergency plan and fewer than 1% had rehearsed it.
Seven years have passed and seven elements have been identified. Yet, in spite of progress, we have achieved none of the seven goals. By any grading standard that is an F.
Kimberly Archie is the founder of the National Cheer Safety Foundation and the president of USA Sport Safety. She has been an expert witness in 21 cheer injury cases and interviewed by over 300 media sources including People magazine, the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal and USAToday.