Sport Education is the Key to Managing Catastrophic Sports Injuries
Physical activity and sport by their very nature include inherent risks leading to injuries for many individuals who participate (1).
Most sports injuries encountered by young athletes are minor in nature, but when an injury is extensive enough to be categorized as catastrophic it can be devastating to those involved.
Fortunately, catastrophic injuries are rare, but it remains important to be aware of the remote possibility of their occurrence and the need for shared the responsibility for the management of such injuries. All who are involved should assume a strong sense of accountability for the healthcare and safety of young athletes participating in physical activity and sports.
Professional standards for practice and related ethical responsibilities have been disseminated from various sports medicine entities, sport coaching organizations and sport governing bodies in an effort to guide those who work with young athletes.
These standards should promote prudent conduct and integrity amongst educated and qualified personnel in order to ensure that the highest quality of coaching, training and healthcare is being provided (1) (2).
For clarity of discussion, the definitions utilized for this paper are consistent with the present research concerning general sports injuries and what is considered catastrophic injuries (3) (4).
General Sports Injuries are usually divided into two different groups:
- Direct: Injuries due to a direct result of the physical contact during the participation of the skills of the sport or activity.
- Indirect: Injuries due to an indirect non-contact systemic failure as a result of the physical exertion put forth during the sport or activity.
Catastrophic Sports Injuries are usually categorized in three categories:
- Fatal: Death.
- Nonfatal: Permanent, severe functional disability.
- Serious: Non-permanent functional disability, but severe in injury.
Although all sports injuries are of major concern, it is the Catastrophic Sports Injuries that are leading to severe disability and even sudden death to younger athletes that are monopolizing the Sports Medicine arena today. There needs to be a concerted effort from various entities to continue to come together and answer some questions about the nature of these injuries and how they should be managed (5).
Various sports injuries occur daily in all physical activity and with each sport having its own set of favorites. Certain sports injuries are more prevalent within a certain sport – depending upon the nature of the sport.
It is the Catastrophic Sports Injuries that are of major concern here: Head & Brain Injuries, Facial & Eye Trauma, Neck & Throat Injuries, Cervical Spine Injuries, Heat Stroke and Sudden Death due to Cardiac Conditions (6) (7).
We have the stats. We have the technology. We have the tools. We need to step up to the plate as a unified body and educate all who are involved with the Health and Safety of young athletes. Fellow athletes, parents, teachers, coaches, trainers, sport administrators, physicians, and sports organizations ALL NEED TO BE EDUCATED.
The increased participation in physical activity and sport has lead to an increase in General Sports Injuries across the board with Catastrophic Sports Injuries being part of that overall increase.
In the past there has been various opposing views on how to handle the pre-participation physical exams, what tests should be included in the exam, the medico/legal issues concerning the right to play sports and the deciding of one’s own health and safety – no matter what medical condition presents itself during the exam (8) (9) (10).
It is important to understand that although every possible preparation and prudent matter has been addressed – there still is a level of risk involved. The elimination of total risk will never be scaled down to 0%. In light of this indisputable fact, it is important to manage risk through the establishment of prudent and sound risk management protocols (11).
Many schools and organizations called upon to promote physical activity and sports are not prepared for the task. Many lack qualified personnel and up-to-date equipment. Most do not even have a written Emergency Action Plan addressing the staff’s immediate response to Catastrophic Sports Injuries (12) (13).
The high occurrence of specific sports injuries has prompted sports manufactures, league officials, federal governments, insurance companies, schools, and others involved to look into ways to prevent these injuries from happening.
Throughout recent years these organizations have tried to modify rules, equipment, and playing surfaces in order to make young athletes safer while participating in physical activity and sports.
Sports medicine, fitness and coaching organizations have also contributed by researching these problems and making suggestions and recommendations on how to train, coach and care for young athletes with one thing in mind – their health and safety.
Recommendations & Solutions
The problems demand uniformed solutions derived from the answers to questions that have been debated for some time.
There needs to be a stronger commitment to Sport Education. This education will help those in the field with the knowledge and professional tools to make prudent decisions concerning the health and safety of young athletes.
Sport Education is the only way to manage Catastrophic Sports Injuries and ensure qualified personnel are coaching, training and caring for young athletes participating in physical activity and sport.
Recommendations for Problem #1
- Continue to utilize sources for sports injury surveillance systems and research statistics in order to continue to move in a forward direction to always have the health and safety of young athletes as the main priority.
- Continue to conduct research into optimizing the safety of sports equipment and playing surfaces.
- Continue to work with federal government, insurance companies, school boards and sports organizations to effect changes promoting the health and safety of young athletes.
With this continued support by those involved – we can strive to continue to keep young athletes safe and help to try to prevent Catastrophic Sports Injuries from further occurring.
Recommendations for Problem #2
- Pre-participation Physical Exams need to be reevaluated, updated and standardized for ALL sports.
- A closer look needs to be taken to incorporate one or several Cardiac Testing Procedures such as a Chest X-Ray, ECG, &/or Echocardiogram.
- The History portion of exam needs to be reevaluated to incorporate specific questions concerning heart and lung function and family medical history. New red flags need to be structured.
- The Physical portion of exam needs to be reevaluated to incorporate heart and lung specific tests along with fitness parameters to check the fitness level of the athletes.
- Medico/Legal Issues have prompted too much bickering and wasting too much time. A standardized pre-participation physical exam, with additional screens, should be mandated.
- The Medical/Insurance Issues have shown the importance of keeping an open relationship with the insurance industry for facilitating financial coverage of Pre-participation Physical Exams. Attention should be given to stress the importance of these exams and the value in the long run.
- Education — Qualified and certified personnel must be trained and educated in various components of Sports Medicine, Sports Coaching, and Sports Fitness. Educational programs to train Doctors, Allied Healthcare Professionals, Exercise Physiologists and others who are supervising athletes must be created and honed.
Recommendations for Problem #3
- Legal/Insurance Concerns should be addressed with a structured Risk Management Plan that incorporates a written Emergency Action Plan, proper emergency equipment and certified personnel prior to ALL sports programs being initiated.
- Education — Qualified, certified personnel must be trained and educated in various components of Sports Medicine, Sports Coaching, and Sports Safety / First Aid / CPR / AED. Educational programs for Sports Management, Administrators, Coaches, and Trainers should be developed, as should informational programs for Teachers and Parents.
The United States Sports Academy Solution
Sports Education based upon the Sports Sciences is the key to managing Catastrophic Sports Injuries. Qualified, certified personnel are the first requirement for ensuring the health and safety of young athletes involved in physical activity and sports.
The business of sport has grown exponentially over the past three decades, evolving into a multi-billion dollar industry. The bigger the industry becomes, the more competitive it is for sports professionals trying to find their niche. In the past 25 years, sport has been redefined by economic, legal, marketing and technological forces.
For a sports educator, administrator, trainer or coach, a broad base of knowledge is essential to stay ahead of the game. An advanced degree from a school of higher education has become increasingly necessary to prepare for a successful career in the sports field.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission “sports university” created to serve the nation and the world with programs in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports.
Since 1972, the Academy has been addressing the need to provide quality, sport-specific programs. The Academy was born from the United States' need for a national school of sport. This need was highlighted by the inferior U.S. performance at the 1972 Munich Olympiad, due largely to poor administration, the lack of medical support and unscientific coaching and training, in addition to the publication of the Blyth-Mueller Report which underscored the relationship between the number and degree of severity of injuries to sport participants and the level of expertise of their coaches.
Celebrating its Silver Anniversary in 1997, the Academy has never wavered from the mission set forth by its founders 35 years ago. As sport has changed, so has the Academy evolved to meet new demands and trends.
The United States Sports Academy is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the Bachelor of Sports Science degree (level II), the Master of Sports Science degree (level III), and the Doctor of Education degree (level V).
The Bachelor of Sports Science, the Master of Sports Science and the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Sports Management degrees are on the approved list of the Sports Management Program Review Committee (SMPRC), a joint committee of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM). These organizations are the leading professional groups in sport education and sport management, respectively.
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National Athletic Trainer’s Association – Injury Surveillance Program
National Strength & Conditioning Association
American College of Sports Medicine
American Heart Association
National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research
American Football Coaches Association
National Collegiate Athletic Association
National Federation of State High School Associations
National Operating Committee of Standards for Athletic Equipment
American College of Cardiology
Hypertophic Cardiomyopathy Association — Call to Action / Get The Word Out Program
Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation — The US National Registry
Royal Phillips Electronic — Phillips ECG / AED — Save an Athlete Program
Team of Physicians for Students (TOPS) ‐ Campaign against SCD ‐ Sudden Cardiac Death
American Red Cross
National Association for Sport & Physical Education
American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
National Youth Sports Safety Foundation
Safe Kids USA
National Center for Sports Safety