Are Youth Sports Programs Safe Enough? Injury Awareness Group Offers 5 Tips for Better Safety in School-Age Athletics

Monday, May 14, 2018 General News
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Taylor Haugen Foundation Emphasizes Sideline Medical Staffing, Treatment Protocols, Protective Equipment, Parental Involvement

NICEVILLE, Fla., May 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The conclusion of another school year doesn't mean the family calendar

isn't still heavy with youth sports activities.  From travel leagues and summer tournaments to the start of training camps for next fall's scholastic teams, there's not much of a break in the athletic schedule for America's kids.  Not even in summertime.

As organized sports have become a year-round thing, the intensity level in school-age competition also has progressively increased over time.  One of America's leading advocacy groups for sports injury prevention is speaking out about the potential dangers this presents to young participants.  It is urging athletic departments, youth league organizers and parents alike to reevaluate the safety protocols used by local schools and communities and, if necessary, to shore up their game-time contingency plans.

More than 46 million children participate in youth sports in the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 2.6 million emergency room visits per year are due to youth sports injuries.  That's not counting the number of kids whose on-field mishaps might not result in a trip to the ER, but still inhibit the players physically.

Another unsettling fact:  Although 62 percent of organized sports-related injuries occur during practice, many parents do not have their children take the same safety precautions at practice that they would take during a game.

With better education and preparation, a lot of these injuries could be averted, say officials from the Taylor Haugen Foundation, the nation's leading advocate of abdominal injury awareness, prevention and protection for secondary school athletes.

"Whether it's football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey or any other sport involving some degree of contact, everyone needs to understand what safety looks like – especially for our school-age athletes – so our children can enjoy the sports they love with less risk of getting hurt," said Brian Haugen, co-founder of the Taylor Haugen Foundation with his wife, Kathy.

"No parents want to prevent their kids from participating in sports, but it's everyone's individual responsibility – from the coaches and trainers to the parents and the players themselves – to make sure these young athletes are safe when they take the field, and also to make sure everyone knows what to do when a player gets injured or falls ill during a game," Haugen stated.  "It's critical everyone is up to speed on all the protocols for detection and treatment of on-the-field injuries, and also that these young competitors are wearing the right protective gear."

The Taylor Haugen Foundation cites these five tips for building the safest youth sports program possible, in schools and throughout other organizations serving school-age kids:

  1. Post dedicated medical personnel on the sideline.  For timely response to on-the-field injuries, it's vital that some sort of emergency medical service (EMS) – e.g., a licensed athletic trainer, paramedic, team doctor, or some other emergency unit – is actually along the sideline for every game (including warmups) in every sport.
  2. Establish proper sideline protocols for injuries.  Develop an action plan for game-time response to potential injuries – from minor sprains and cuts to major blunt-force impact that could result in significant trauma, such as a concussion or fracture or abdominal injury.  (In secondary schools, serious sports-related abdominal injuries, such as those to the ribs, spleen and liver, are on the rise at an alarming rate.)  Coordinate the plan with the attending EMS.
  3. Outfit your athlete with the proper protective equipment.  Start by researching "sports protective equipment" or "sports safety gear" online.  Also, determine which protective equipment is mandatory and what's optional for each sport, and understand how some non-mandatory products can help make a difference.  For instance, there is a protective rib shirt on the market that can help protect against commotio cordis, an often-lethal disruption of heart rhythm that can occur from a blow to the area directly over the heart.
  4. Partner with other parents.  Talk openly and often – at parents' meetings, booster club gatherings and other events – to address the important questions about sports safety and proper protocols.  Together, parents can raise questions with the coaches to ensure safety precautions are both in place and being taken seriously.  Presenting a united front to coaches, principals, school boards, etc., can help parents demonstrate they mean business when it comes to advocating better safety protocols and equipment, including optional gear.
  5. Talk to your kids about sports safety.  Make sure they understand how to be as prepared and protected as possible for competition.  Check for proper equipment fit and see that all the vulnerable bodily areas are adequately covered.  In addition, some of the more-recent regulations about contact in football have made the torso the logical target for hits, so make sure your athletes know how to tackle – and be tackled – without causing harm.

"If you're a parent," Brian Haugen asked, "do you know your school's procedures in case your child gets hurt during a practice or a game?  It's not enough to just assume the coach has all the protocols nailed down.  With sports at the secondary school level getting more competitive and aggressive, the degree of preparedness for injuries also should be heightened."

Brian and Kathy Haugen are all too familiar with the risks involved for student-athletes.  The Florida couple's only child, Taylor, a wide receiver on the Niceville High School junior varsity football team, died from an abdominal injury sustained on the playing field in 2008.  He was 15.

The Taylor Haugen Foundation emerged from that tragedy.  The nonprofit organization was created in 2008 with the goal of better protecting school-age athletes from abdominal injuries, through awareness, education, and access to the latest protective equipment.  Through the foundation's YESS Program (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety), more than 4,500 children in 74 schools across 13 states have been outfitted with protective sports gear, mostly for football and baseball.

"Abdominal injuries in school sports are more common than anyone suspects, and coaches and parents need to do more to help prevent them," Brian Haugen stressed.

The Taylor Haugen Foundation is believed to be the country's only nonprofit organization focused exclusively on protecting middle school and high school athletes from abdominal injuries.  The foundation is a member of the Youth Sports Safety Alliance and works closely with the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The organization also receives support from the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, in Gulf Breeze, Florida.

Contact:Mary Eva TredwayButin Integrated Communicationsmtredway@butincom.com404.317.0731

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SOURCE Taylor Haugen Foundation

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