Linda Alberts, Public Relations Coordinator
National Alliance for Youth Sports
There has been a much needed push to bring attention to injuries in youth sports. Awareness campaigns like that of STOP Sports Injuries and the CDC’s Heads Up program are doing great work to educate the parents and coaches involved in youth sports about how to prevent and identify injuries.
I was raised with the mantra that knowledge is power, and that’s what their campaigns and NAYS programming offers. They arm people with education and ensuing confidence to get involved in youth sports. Hopefully, they’ll make the right split-second decisions in emergency situations until medical help can arrive.
Sports equipment manufacturers have even jumped on board the safety awareness train. A mouth guard manufacturer has made a mouth guard that monitors a player’s internal temperature and can help prevent extertional heat stroke. A high school football team in California is placing “jelly caps” on their players’ helmets, with hopes that the cap will reduce the force of impact and reduce chances of concussions among their players.
While I can appreciate the safety (and marketing) opportunity these manufacturers are taking advantage of, there are some questions we all need to ask.
A 2012 study by Safe Kids Worldwide reported that three out of 10 children ages 8-18 already think a good player should keep playing even when they’re hurt. Do these products further encourage kids to ignore listening to their body’s cues?
In the case of the jelly capped football players, the caps reportedly are only used in practice. I think that will give them false senses of security come Friday night when the hits will feel a little harder.
As a member of the millennial generation I can appreciate interweaving technology into our lives – to an extent. Technology cannot replace common sense and safety education.
Coaches need to learn how to keep their players safe on the field (or rink or court), and they need to teach their players how to protect themselves. I think development of safety skills is just as important for a player to learn as the sport skills they’ll take with them as they progress through higher levels of play.