Youth sports injuries seem to continue to pile up. Unfortunately so do the fatalities. In recent years, we’ve heard about many football players who have died after suffering brain trauma. We’ve heard reports of athletes who have died of sudden cardiac death. And we’ve heard of athletes dying of heat illnesses such as exertional heat stroke or sickle cell anemia. In response to that, there have been significant regulations in the way of law or league policies for these various cases.
All 50 states now have legislation on the books for concussion education and concussion management. Several states (Illinois, where I live, being one of them) require an AED to be available in fitness and sporting facilities. Kentucky is an example of a state that mandates cold tubs be available in cases where there is risk of heat illness. The NCAA now has requirements for testing for sickle cell trait. And most recently, Athletic Business reports that Connecticut is considering legislation requiring high school coaches to be educated on the signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest.
While I commend the attention to these youth sports injury issues, it concerns me that in the midst of all these separate laws, the big picture is being ignored. Many of these issues addressed by varying laws and regulations could be covered with one, more simple law being put into place: mandating certified athletic trainers onsite for games and practices.
Related: NATA Releases Guidelines to Prevent Deaths in HS Sports
With a certified athletic trainer present at every game and practice, they would be able to cover every issue addressed above. Additionally, those athletic trainers are trained in the evaluation and clinical diagnosis of orthopedic injuries. They can also work to prevent many injuries ranging from simple strains and sprains all the way up to preventing anterior cruciate ligament ruptures. Athletic trainers are trained in dealing with emergencies on the field or court whether it is a fractured bone, sudden cardiac arrest, concussion or a cervical injury.
Outside the evaluation process, Athletic Trainers are also trained in preventative and rehabilitative skills. They work tirelessly to prevent as many injuries as they can and when those injuries do occur, they work to rehab that individual back to activity.
Related: High School Athletic Trainers Key in Concussion Management
So why is it that the National Athletic Trainers’ Association states only about 60 percent of schools across the country “have access” to an athletic trainer? And what does that really mean? Ask yourself this question: Who is protecting YOUR kid during a practice or a game?
Mike Hopper is a certified athletic trainer providing outreach athletic training services for Waterloo High School in Waterloo, Ill. He is currently working on a master's in pediatric sports medicine.