Safety ratings for youth sports leagues a positive step for our kids’ health

We focus a lot of attention on high school sports when it comes to injuries. Mandating cardiac screening for all athletes, ensuring high schools have athletic trainer coverage and even restricting the number of contact practices in high school football have all come up for discussion in recent years. But we need to make sure our younger athletes are protected as well. Tennessee just installed a rating system for youth sports
leagues that provides a great first step. I discussed the idea in my latest newspaper column, and I offer my preferred version of a ratings system below.

Tennessee launches first-of-its-kind youth sports program

Tennessee just launched a novel youth sports initiative. Other states would be smart to follow its lead.

The Volunteer State adopted a rating system for youth sports leagues called Safe Stars. This program is the first of its kind in the United States. Leagues are assigned safety ratings, helping parents to know which ones in any given sport follow specific safety protocols.

Safe Stars rating system for youth sports leagues

Safe Stars assigns leagues gold, silver and bronze ratings based on their preparation in areas like emergency action plans, education of coaches about concussions and more. Leagues participate voluntarily. After submitting the application and supporting documents, they receive a rating that is valid for five years. If a league fails to earn one of the three ratings, it can reapply at any time.

Dr. Alex Diamond, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, believes Safe Stars can reassure parents their kids will be well supervised. “It is akin to this — most people wouldn’t drop their child off at a public pool that didn’t have lifeguards,” Diamond argued in a press release for the program. “But we do drop our kids off at gyms or baseball fields where there is no one assigned to and trained about their well-being and safety.”

Bronze, silver and gold ratings for youth sports leagues

To meet the lowest level – bronze – a Tennessee youth sports league must implement all of these safety protocols:

• Creating and practicing an emergency action plan that includes severe allergic reactions
• Having an automated external defibrillator (AED) on site
• Ensuring a minimum of two coaches are certified in CPR and the use of an AED, with one always present
• Training coaches in the recognition and management of sudden cardiac arrest and concussions
• Adopting a severe weather policy for both lightning and heat
• Performing background checks on all coaches

To earn a silver rating, a league must adopt two more protocols that could include mandatory pre-participation physicals, safety policy discussions with parents, safety checks of athletic equipment, all league coaches certified in CPR and AEDs, the presence of athletic trainers for practices and games and more.

To earn a gold rating, a league must adopt four of those protocols above what is required to earn a bronze.

Rating systems help parents to know that coaches take injuries seriously

I’ll put it bluntly: I love this system. I would strongly support other states implementing a similar rating system.

It might lead to quite a bit of administrative effort at first as leagues across the state apply. Maybe a state could have leagues in different sports apply in different times of the year to spread out the applications. With ratings in place for at least several years, though, I don’t believe
certification would become overly burdensome.

I’m not arguing that sports leagues be required to participate. I think most would, though. Parents would feel more comfortable signing their kids up to play in a league if they knew that the coaches and athletic directors took injuries and safety seriously.

Emphasizing the importance of athletic trainers in youth sports

The only change I would make would be to change the criteria for earning a gold rating. I would mandate the presence of athletic trainers at every game and practice in order to achieve a gold rating. Yes, it’s the most difficult requirement to achieve for cost reasons, but it’s also by far the most important for the young athletes.

Tennessee’s program allows a league to fulfill four out of nine safety options, so it wouldn’t necessarily need to provide athletic trainer coverage to gain a gold rating.

My version of a rating system for youth sports leagues

If I could create my ideal rating system, it would be much like Tennessee’s but with the changes to the gold rating to ensure those leagues have athletic trainer coverage.

Bronze rating – A league must demonstrate all of the following standards:

• Creating and practicing an emergency action plan that includes severe allergic reactions
• Having an automated external defibrillator (AED) on site
• Ensuring a minimum of two coaches are certified in CPR and the use of an AED, with one always present
• Training coaches in the recognition and management of sudden cardiac arrest and concussions
• Adopting a severe weather policy for both lightning and heat
• Performing background checks on all coaches

Silver rating – A league must adopt all bronze-level standards, plus four from this list:

• Mandatory pre-participation physical examination required for each athlete
• Risk and safety information/policies discussed with parents/guardians before each season
• Additional health, safety and injury prevention training for all coaches
• Thorough safety inspection for all athletic equipment
• CPR/AED certification for every league coach
• Tobacco education for young athletes
• Promotion of sportsmanship, a positive culture and a standard of expectations regarding behavior

Gold rating – A league must adopt all bronze-level standards, four standards from the silver list, and the following standards regarding the presence of first responders:

• Medical professional (preferably an athletic trainer) on site for all games
• Medical professional (preferably an athletic trainer) on site for all practices

Regardless, Tennessee’s safety ratings are a very positive step for youth sports and the kids who play them. Let’s hope other states follow suit and adopt a program similar to Safe Stars.

If you are concerned about the health of young athletes and want to know what you can do to help them avoid injuries in sports, check out my book, That’s Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever.

Note: A modified version of this article appears as my sports medicine column in the July 13, 2017 issue of The Post and Courier.

References:

The Safe Stars Initiative. TN.gov.

Tennessee first state to set up safety ratings for youth sports leagues. Crossville Chronicle. June 22, 2017.

Leave a reply

applications-education-miscellaneous.png
Please note: I cannot and will not provide specific medical information within these comments, just as I won't anywhere else. Also, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or spam. If you have questions, please read My Comments Policy.
 

ABOUT ME
david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

On this blog, on my podcast, and in articles for numerous publications and in media interviews, I aim to provide you leading commentary and education on injury treatment and prevention to keep you performing at your best! Learn more about me >>


MEDIA

I'm excited to help with information and interviews for print, radio, television, and online media. Media information >>

WRITING

Writing I write articles and columns for a number of publications and organizations. Writing information >>
Sports Medicine Simplified: A Glossary of Sports Injuries, Treatments, Prevention and Much More

glossary-cover
Learn more about the glossary >>
© 2017 Dr. David Geier Enterprises, LLC

Site Designed by Launch Yourself