2013 has been a whirlwind of activity for youth sports concussion laws as a handful of remaining states passed legislation, or currently have legislation pending, leading nearly every state in America to have its own laws to educate coaches and parents about concussion prevention and recognition in youth sports. And while I think everyone can applaud the strides lawmakers have made in protecting youth athletes, sadly, they are still missing the mark.
Of the estimated 35 million kids playing organized sports in America, many are unseen under state laws that only focus on student athletes. Sixty percent of children playing sports are doing so outside of school and in programs offered by their local recreation department and volunteer-run sports leagues, or maybe even with YMCAs or Police Athletic Leagues.
Fifteen states are at the forefront of including language in their youth sports concussion laws that extend beyond school athletics to include other youth sports programs in the community. Each state’s requirements and language is different, but they basically require coaches to go through concussion education training and/or parents have to sign off on receiving concussion awareness information or to go through a training themselves.
What about all of the kids – and their coaches – that are overlooked in the 35 remaining states? To that I say parents and coaches don’t have to wait until these states catch up before they seek out concussion training on their own.
A 2012 survey by Safe Kids Worldwide revealed that parents of children ages 5-14 in youth sports aren’t as knowledgeable in sports-related injuries as they feel they should be, and neither are their child’s coaches. In fact, 94 percent of the parents surveyed reported it was very important for parents and coaches to know the signs and symptoms of concussion, but only a staggering 29 percent said they were totally confident in the ability of themselves and their child’s coach to recognize those signs and symptoms.
Parents and coaches have every right and responsibility to seek out quality concussion education training and resources to close up this knowledge gap. They could go to their league and find out what the group’s policy on concussion education is. If there isn’t one, they could spearhead an effort to create one. (Hint: The National Alliance for Youth Sports offers free concussion training for NYSCA coaches and will launch parent concussion training in the very near future!)
At the end of the day, parents and coaches are the ones responsible for the safety of the kids under their watch, and they can truly make a difference.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
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