Tyrell Cameron, Louisiana
Ben Hamm, Oklahoma
Evan Murray, New Jersey
Kenny Bui, Washington
These students have rights as secondary school athletes; rights to protect them through quality preventative measures in pre-participation physicals, educated coaches on sport-safety, safe playing environments with proper equipment, emergency preparedness and support to remove themselves while playing if injured and to receive the care they deserve. In addition, these athletes have a right to informed consent, particularly when participating in sport fatality and catastrophic injury statistics. Although disheartening, we have a duty to educate these young student-athletes, their parents, and their coaches about the risk they are choosing.
How is it possible that American Football (NFL 35% and college football 11%) is the most watched sport in the country, but hurting so many?
Recently, two students at a Union Mine High School in California both were taken to the hospital after falling ill (with what seemed to be concussion-related symptoms including nausea and loss of consciousness) during the game. The student-athletes were later diagnosed with a concussion and a subdural hematoma, respectively. The media has portrayed this tragic story as “mysterious” and citing Adderall prescription abuse as a potential cause. Whether or not Adderall played a role in either of conditions, the concussion was a result of blunt force trauma… and the trauma was a result of playing American Football. Unfortunately, these young men did not have the support and care of an Athletic Trainer (we will save the unexplainable decision of California and their Governor’s veto for AT title protection for another post).
Originally introduced in 2014, The SAFE PLAY (Supporting Athletes, Families and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act) Act (H.R. 829) seems like an easy way for legislation to help prevent these tragic deaths. Unfortunately, Senator Mendez (Republican, NJ), Congresswoman Capps (Democrat, CA), the NATA and the APTA who all strongly support this bill have not yet seen the support they need to protect the lives of the over 1 million high school football players and numerous other athletic youth. The bill was re-introduced to the Senate in February 2015 and does seem to have growing support with 38 sponsors.
The SAFE PLAY Act hopes to continue research, education and support for high schools to create and implement injury prevention techniques and lifesaving training including heat exposure, CPR and AED training, concussion management, cardiac conditions and energy drink consumption. In addition, the bill would require public schools in each state to post information on concussions visible to the public including the risk posed by sustaining a concussion. This is a vital step in the right direction to continue saving youth athlete lives.
As an athletic trainer, you have a duty to protect your patients. Despite your place of employment, it is vital that we as athletics trainers, along with physical therapists and lawmakers, continue to lobby for this bill to protect our youth. If changes are not made soon, school districts and high schools will begin cutting sports from their offered activities much like this school board in Missouri.
For more information on how to advocate or lobby for this bill, here are some helpful tips-
- Contact your local representative to spark an interest in becoming a Co-sponsor of S. 436 or H.R. 829 by contacting. Your representative can speak to Michael Barnard, with Senator Robert Menendez at Michael_Barnard@mail.house.govor 4x4744 or Erick Siahaan with Representative Lois Capps at Erick.Siahaan@mail.house.govor 5x3601 for more information!
- Contact Amy Callender (Director of Government Affairs for NATA) at (972) 532-8853 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on grass roots efforts or the NATA Hit the Hill Day in the spring.
Continue to advocate for a safe environment for our youth to play in! Our condolences go out to the families of the five youth athletes named in this blog.
Zachary Winkelmann, MS, LAT, ATC
Indiana State University