The Future of Sports
Barely a day goes by when we are not faced with the topic of concussion in sports. Whether the NFL, NHL or NASCAR, athletes are being sidelined for head injuries like never before. We hear about the NFL Players Association lawsuit and chronic traumatic encephalopathy… about the tragedies of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson… about the new state laws that require concussion management policies in schools. We are faced with Dr. Robert Cantu’s proclamation that no child under the age of 14 should play collision sports and reports from football leagues that this year’s enrollments are down.
And now we have TV shows like Friday Night Tykes that dangerously glamorize youth football with 8 year olds as if they are playing professional sports…
So where does that leave youth sports? Sports help our youngsters stay physically fit while developing team skills, strategic thinking, and having fun. Yet, if the culture of sports doesn’t change soon, some believe that youth sports will be threatened. The reality is there is risk in life, and there is risk in sports participation. Risk cannot be eliminated. So what can we do?
Provide Concussion Education: This is paramount for ALL adults involved in youth sports and for youth athletes. Strictly enforce the motto: When in doubt, sit them out.
Instill Zero Tolerance: No unsportsmanlike conduct, PERIOD. That means increasing penalties and expulsion for players, coaches, and referees who permit dangerous play.
Utilize State of the Art Skill Development: Coaches need to be trained in the most up to date, current techniques of skill development that reduce the likelihood of injuries.
Access Medical Support: Athletic trainer and/or medical assistance should be readily available for youth sports play, especially the contact and collision sports.
Carefully Use Sports Equipment: Fit all athletes properly and ensure that equipment meets best standards and that athletes are using equipment effectively and reliably. Consider use of new technology such as hit sensors.
Reduce Risky Athletic Exposure: Schedule only the necessary number of practices and reduce contact/collision in practices.
Believe that youth sports ARE NOT professional sports: Youth sports should not be played in the same manner or intensity as professional sports. The main objective should be fun and joy. Very, very few youth athletes ever become pros.
Treat every concussion carefully and thoroughly: Seek the best medical care from trained concussion experts. Never return an athlete to soon.
Ultimately, we will see changes in youth sports. And the magnitude of those changes will depend on how well we can reduce the risk of brain injury in youth athletes.
For more information on what we can do NOW….
Ahead of the Game: The Parents’ Guide to Youth Concussion
By Dr. Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, Dartmouth College Press
The Smartest Team
Documentary by MomsTEAM now showing on PBS
Both now available at Amazon.com