Safety on the Playing Field

There is a youth sports safety crisis in America. We see, hear and read about it every day, and recent studies point to a prolific increase in injuries despite our collective best efforts to prevent and treat them. Though they may at first seem minor, youth sports-related injuries can result in lifelong musculoskeletal or neurological conditions – or even prove fatal.

Making this issue even more challenging, the national landscape is now emphasizing physical fitness to combat the incidence of obesity and diabetes in children. Happily, more kids are playing more sports, often “specializing” in one sport or one position – even playing year-round. More girls are involved in sports, including competitive cheerleading, and the number of league sports and community opportunities to participate in athletics is on the rise.

Yet physical activity is not without risk. Recent studies point to a significant increase in catastrophic injuries that result in death or permanent disability. In fact, there were at least 115 sports-related deaths in 33 states over the past two years. Brain injury, devastating heat illness and sudden cardiac arrest are just a few of the serious conditions suffered by children on the playing field. The traditional sports philosophy of “playing through pain” can result in younger athletes, who are eager to make a good impression, continuing or returning to the playing field, when sitting out or going home would be the safer and more logical course of action.

The CATA recommends that parents and coaches take the following action in order to help keep kids safe and in the game:

  • Ensure that youth athletes have access to health care professionals who are qualified to make assessments and decisions.
  • Educate your family about the symptoms of musculoskeletal and neurological injuries (concussion, heat illness, ACL injuries).
  • Ensure pre-participation exams before play begins.
  • Ensure sports equipment and playing surfaces are checked for safety and best conditions.
  • Write to your state legislator, expressing your concerns.
  • Support further research into youth sports injuries and their effects.
  • There’s a difference between pain and injury – work to eliminate the culture of “playing through pain” without assessment.

In order to increase education and understanding of Catastrophic Injuries, the CATA has prepared the following handouts addressing each injury that can be printed out and distributed to school administrators, coaches, booster clubs, parents, PTA boards, etc.

Here are some other ideas for distribution:

  • Put out on tables at events
  • Ask school administrators to post on school web sites and put in common areas
  • Send them to your local media and offer yourself as a local spokesperson who can talk more about the issues covered in the fact sheets
  • Distribute to parents and children during practices and games at all primary and secondary schools.

Please help us educate our athletes, coaches, parents and administrators – it’s up to us to keep kids safe and keep them in the game.

Watch a high school athlete recount the story of how an Athletic Trainer helped save his life.


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