Student athletes need better sports safety

11:20 PM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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North tops the South in the All-Star Game

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. (KSDK) - Fort Zumwalt South basketball coach Bill Fridle has seen all kinds of injuries.

"We had two kids run together we had one kid lose a tooth then we had another bleeding from his forehead and he ended up getting 16 stitches or something like that," said Fridle.

For that incident and others, Fridle relies on veteran athletic trainer JoAnne Spann, who has worked at Fort Zumwalt South for 13 years. Trainers like Spann are responsible for deciding when an athlete sits out practices and games because of an injury like a concussion.

"If they've got a headache, dizziness, vision problems, I ask them some questions," said Spann. "We give them some words to remember and repeat back and later go back and check their delayed recall. I feel like I've helped a lot of kids continue to be able to participate because we're monitoring their return to play."

"It takes that responsibility off the coaches," said Bill Fridle. "We don't have to worry about it. If the trainer clears them, they can play."

Keeping athletes of all ages safe has become a national conversation. Amid the on-going scrutiny of concussions in the National Football League, the 4th Youth Sports Safety Summit convened in Washington, DC this week, where lawmakers were presented a national action plan to protect high school athletes. Student-athletes suffer two million injuries every year, including more than 300,000 concussions.

Nationally almost eight million high school student athletes playing sports, but only 42 percent of high schools have fulltime accredited athletic trainers. That's according to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance.
That group wants to make high school sports safer with proposals to Congress like mandating athletic trainers or doctors for every high school. Other suggestions by the Youth Sports Safety Alliance: training every coach in CPR and the use of defibrillators; baseline concussion testing for high schoolers; and training teachers, coaches, parents, and student athletes about the symptoms of concussions. The Youth Sports Safety Alliance is urging each state to adopt its recommendations.

"If I was a parent and my son or daughter had an injury, I'd be making sure there was somebody there to keep an eye on them, while they're playing in competition," said Randy Biggerstaff, head athletic trainer at Lindenwood University. Biggerstaff is also in charge of the university's undergraduate program in athletic training. He says the spotlight on concussions in the NFL is impacting safety concerns at lower levels of sports.

"The sad part is that it takes the NFL to have an investigation, the NFL to start having lawsuits, before we start looking at youth sports and high school sports."


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