Over the past 10 years, organized youth sports have been elevated to a whole new level of importance and competitive nature by both parents and athletes. The once opportunity to get kids off the couch and out of the house, has now become an obsession, supposed ticket to free college, and a quick pathway to potentially serious injuries. According to a survey done by Michigan State in January 2012, over 35 million kids’ ages 5 to 18 years old participated in organized youth sports that year. Of those 35 million, 1 in 6,000 will make it to the NFL, 1 in 10,000 will make it to the NBA, and 1 in 90 will receive a full ride to a Division I or Division II college. Along with those statics, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance estimate 2 million injuries in high school sports each year alone, with 50,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations from these injuries. This doesn’t even include the injuries not reported or those outside of the high school sports umbrella. So the question is, are organized youth sports worth the risk?
In response to the staggering number of injuries, over 100 organizations, headed by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, NATA, decided to come together to create the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, in order to help prevent catastrophic injuries and death in young athletes. This alliance, in February, hosted a Youth Sports Safety Summit in Washington, D.C., to finalize a National Action Plan for Sports Safety. After the Plan was finalized, the members of the Alliance conducted 100 legislative meetings on Capitol Hill in order to get support for the bill "Secondary School Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights". This bill was officially introduced February 15.
The National Action Plan for Sports Safety recommends that schools add safety measure to protect its’ athletes in 4 major areas: cardiac events, neurological injuries, environmentally-induced conditions, and dietary/substance-induced conditions. The Plan also suggests having a complete athletic health care program and health care team, having a plan for selection, fit, and maintenance of athletic equipment, informing parents of emergency policies and procedures, training coaches and athletic officials in CPR and AEDs use, to name a few.
The hope of the Plan and the Bill is to help protect and prevent youth sports athletes’ injuries. In some cases, though, youth injuries can be prevented by just giving the athletes some time off. More recently, kids are playing year round sports and they aren’t getting any time off for their bodies to recover, which can cause fatigue and a breakdown in proper mechanics. Many young kids are feeling pressure from their coaches and parents to be elite athletes so that they can go on to get college scholarships or even become a professional athlete. This added pressure can even turn kids away from playing sports because they no longer enjoy what they’re doing. It is extremely important that parents and coaches understand the importance of giving the proper rest and recovery time to their young athletes, so that they can have a long and successful athletic career.
Even though the topic of organized youth sport injuries is relatively new, there have been great strides to help prevent and hopefully in the future eliminate this epidemic. The most recent of these strides, the creation of the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, the National Action Plan for Sports Safety, and the Secondary School Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights, have not only set guidelines, but have also brought awareness to the issue and have opened many people’s eyes, including government officials.