With another school year quickly approaching, many fall sports — including football, soccer, volleyball and cross-country — also have started or are about to start holding practices. For many households, parents will be experiencing for the first time having an athlete in the house.
The National Athletic Trainers’ Association has released safety tips for parents. Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. Here are some safety tips from the association for parents with athletes:
Get information on the school’s sports medicine team. Find out who will provide care to your child in case of an injury, and ask about their credentials. Many schools and sports teams rely on athletic trainers or parents with medical and first aid training and certification to keep kids safe. The association also recommends that any medical decisions be made by physicians and athletic trainers and not the coach, to avoid conflict of interest. Coaches and even the athletes themselves might unconsciously make decisions that favor winning over safety.
Ask about an emergency action plan. Every team should have a venue-specific written emergency action plan for managing serious and/or potentially life-threatening injuries. It should include information on individual assignments, emergency equipment and supplies.
Make sure all equipment is safe and in working order. This includes everything from football helmets and gymnastics mats to the condition of the fields used for games and practices. And it includes emergency medical equipment such as spine boards, splint devices and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) — which should be checked once per month to make sure that batteries and pads don’t need replacing.
Insist that locker rooms and shower surfaces are cleaned on a regular basis. With the advent of MRSA and related bacterial, viral and fungal skin infections, it is critical to keep these surfaces routinely cleaned and checked for germs. And athletes should be discouraged from sharing towels, athletic gear, athletic clothing, water bottles, disposable razors or hair clippers.
Learn the signs of a concussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 1.6 million to 3.8 million brain injuries occurring nationwide in sports each year, 63,000 in high school sports alone. The athlete should be encouraged to speak up if he or she is hit in the head and suffers from any related symptoms such as dizziness, headache, loss of memory, lightheadedness, fatigue or imbalance.