Suggested Safety Items Parents Should Look For in a High School Athletic Program
One of the primary concerns of parents whose children participate in high school sports is that their child is able to compete in an environment that is safe in which they can excel. How do you know if your school’s athletic program is safe? Here are some suggested items that high school athletic programs should have in place at their facility:
A Complete Emergency Plan
High School emergency plans should include an established set of action items that is implemented in the event of an emergency situation. The types of questions to ask are:
• Who will provide emergency first aid?
• Who and how will Emergency Medical Services (EMS) be summoned?
• Who will monitor non-injured members of the team during an emergency?
• How will parents be notified in the event of an emergency?
• Are emergency medical devices readily available, i.e. inhalers/EpiPens, at all times and are coaches and athletic health care providers educated in the administration?
• Is there an adequate communication system in place at all athletic practices and contests?
• Is documentation of emergency phone numbers and a list of conditions for each student readily available at all practices and games?
• A Full-Time, On- Site, Qualified Athletic Health Care Provider
• There should be a qualified health care provider available to student athletes at the school on a daily basis. This person should be educated in the prevention, immediate care, treatment and rehabilitation of athletic injuries.
• A Team Physician/ Consulting Physician
• There should be a medical physician affiliated with the school who is well versed in sports medicine. The athletic health care provider in the school should establish communication with the team physician.
• Annual Preseason Medical Screenings/ Physicals for All Athletes
• An annual physical should be performed by a physician prior to athletic participation. Documentation should be reviewed by the school based athletic health care provider bringing to the attention of the coaching staff any student athlete participating with a medical alert (such as asthma, diabetes, etc.) Schools should also establish guidelines for athletes with medical alerts to insure that emergency life sustaining medications, i.e., bronchial inhaler for asthma and Epi-Pen for anaphalaxis, are readily available and administered properly when needed.
• Inclement Weather Guidelines
• Guidelines regarding inclement weather, such as lightning storms and extreme heat, should be established well in advance of the athletic season, and adhered to by all athletic participants and spectators. Adequate methods for rehydration should be available in all sports at all times with athlete education on proper hydration provided on regular basis.
• Education for Coaches
• The coaching staff should be required to participate in ongoing education in both coaching techniques, CPR and first-aid.
• Return to Participation Following Injury Plan
• Every school’s athletic health care provider should implement protocol specific for returning an athlete to participation following an injury. This qualified person should be knowledgeable in injury recovery and return to competition procedure.
• Field/Facility Maintenance Plan
• All schools should have plan in place to ensure facilities and fields are properly cared for and inspected on a regular schedule. If repairs are needed, they are administered in a timely manner.
• Proper Athletic Equipment
• The equipment that the school provides should be safe, properly fitted, in good repair and inspected on a regular basis. All equipment inspections, repairs, and reconditioning should be documented. Equipment that is in ill-repair, should be discarded and/or secured out of harms way.
• Conditioning Programs
• Provision of supervised pre-season, in-season and out-of-season conditioning programs should be available to all student athletes. The program should be designed utilizing up-to-date, scientifically sound advice by a person who is educated in the conditioning of the adolescent athlete.
Scott Byrd, coordinator of the Fort Sanders Sports Medicine program, certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and Licensed by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. Scott is also a National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) Approved Clinical Instructor as well as a NATA Board of Certification approved examiner. In January 2002, Scott was presented the Tennessee Athletic Trainers Society, Joe Worden Clinical / Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year for 2001.