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Sports Safety Action Plan Presented to Lawmakers

A group of more than 100 youth-sports organizations introduced a plan today to Capitol Hill lawmakers that calls for all schools to have a comprehensive athletic health-care administrative program, safe practice and play facilities, and injury- and illness-prevention strategies.

The Youth Sports Safety Alliance put the finishing touches on its National Action Plan for Sports Safety Tuesday at the fourth Youth Sports Safety Summit, then headed to Capitol Hill this morning to present it to congressional lawmakers. (Here's my recap of Tuesday's summit, for those who missed it.)

"Our prior summits provided the foundation for this National Action Plan—the critical next step that will help keep young athletes on the field and off the sidelines with chronic, catastrophic, or fatal conditions," said James Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, in a statement. "These conditions can be largely prevented, managed, and treated if the right protocols are in place and properly trained medical personnel including athletic trainers are available to provide immediate care. Only 42 percent of U.S. secondary schools have access to athletic trainers."

The plan lays out nine general recommended actions, including the three mentioned earlier, then dives into specific recommendations for four major injury areas: cardiac events, neurologic injuries, environmental/exertional conditions, and dietary/substance-induced conditions.

The cardiac-events section, for instance, recommends that schools train coaches and athletic officials in CPR and the use of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), requires every child to have a comprehensive pre-participation examination that includes questions on cardiac history, and requires venue-specific emergency action plans (EAPs) to be adopted and routinely rehearsed.

The neurologic-injuries section, whose work group I attended during Tuesday's summit, also recommends a pre-participation evaluation for prospective student-athletes that includes baseline concussion testing when appropriate. It also suggests training teachers, school personnel, coaches, parents, student-athletes, and athletic officials about the signs and symptoms of concussions.

The "training teachers" aspect generated a healthy discussion in the work group. A number of advocates noted that just because a child is symptom-free from a concussion, there's no guarantee that he or she has fully healed. (A study published in December in The Journal of Neuroscience found this to be true.)

Charles Gfeller, a lawyer who gave a presentation on the legal aspect of youth-concussion laws at the summit, said during the work group that teachers are often the school staff members in the best position to notice post-concussion behavioral changes in their students.

One theme that popped up repeatedly across the different injury groups? The importance of education.

All four groups recommend informing parents, student-athletes, and coaches about the school's specific policies and procedures regarding sports safety. Three of the four groups also recommend requiring coaches and athletic officials to be trained in recognizing the signs and symptoms of their specific injuries.

Tuesday's summit ended with an advocacy presentation from Judy Pulice, the national manager of state legislative and regulatory affairs for NATA, in which she encouraged attendees not to become discouraged if they can't enact immediate change. She noted that youth-sports safety is on lawmakers' radars, given that 43 states (plus the District of Columbia) now have youth-concussion laws, and said it should only be an advantage for alliance members as they speak with members of Congress about this new sports-safety plan.

I've pulled a couple of photos from the NATA Twitter handle of alliance members meeting with staff members of Congressional lawmakers from today.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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