May 11, 2023
As a society, we place immense value on the physical and mental wellness of our youth. In the United States, about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and more than 3.5 million injuries are reported each year. In our eagerness to encourage youth sports participation, we too often ignore one crucial aspect of the game: safety.
On April 18, Courier Journal reporter Stephanie Kuzydym produced an expansive Safer Sidelines report on the state of youth sport safety today. Her reporting provided an excellent roadmap for parents, coaches, athletes and health and medical professionals to consider.
Athletic trainers are essential when it comes to youth sports safety.
They have the education, certification and experience to recognize and respond to injuries and sport-related illnesses. If your school has sports, then you must have an athletic trainer. The impact they have on the safety and well-being of athletes cannot be understated.
Youth sports injuries have become pervasive in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high school athletes suffer an estimated 2 million injuries every year, with many of these injuries being preventable when the proper protocols are put into place.
Injuries sustained during youth sports can range from mild bruises and sprains to more severe and potentially catastrophic conditions including exertional heat illnesses, sudden cardiac arrest and sport-related concussions. Whether a mild or life-threatening injury should occur, it can often be a matter of seconds or minutes to determine the outcome. Athletic trainers are often the first responders in these situations. Without them on the sidelines, just who is taking care of your kids?
To reduce risk of injury, athletic trainers work closely with coaches, parents, athletes and other members of a sports medicine team to create that safer sports environment. This includes the development of Emergency Action Plans, ensuring that all athletes have access to adequate hydration and nutrition and that best practices are followed.
Additionally, despite the gravity of potential injuries, youth sports leagues do not have universal guidelines and established safety protocols when it comes to implementing gold standards of care. NATA has advocated for them.
The athletic training profession is regulated in the District of Columbia and all states excluding California. This ensures that anyone calling themselves an athletic trainer has the right experience to do that job – something that should give parents a comfort in knowing their youth athlete’s safety is in the right hands.
Youth sports safety is a critical issue that requires an integral approach to injury prevention and management. Investing in athletic trainers is an essential component to ensure safe play and a safer sideline environment for all youth athletes.