The Youth Sports Safety Alliance (YSSA), founded by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), hosted its fourth annual summit February 5-6, 2013 in Washington, DC. YSSA, created in 2010 with the goal of “raising awareness, advancing legislation, and improve medical care for young athletes” according to their website. The alliance currently includes over 100 members, all with this one goal in mind. Advocates for Injured Athletes is among the alliance members and Beth Mallon was a speaker at the summit as a parent advocate. She was among several prominent advocates and researchers who are trying to make sports participation safer for all athletes.

The summit launched the National Action Plan for Sports Safety and introduced the Student-Athlete Bill of Rights. The primary focus is improving sports safety and achieving appropriate medical care at the secondary level. The specific focus will be on 1) cardiac events, 2) neurological injuries, 3) environmental/exertional injuries, and 4) substance-induced conditions. Many of the speakers and others in attendance met with and lobbied legislators around these topics.

“Momentum continues to build for comprehensive action to protect student athletes. Public interest has remained strong; however, much of the focus remains on concussion in high school athletes despite the higher number of student athletes in all grades that suffer other serious or even fatal injuries.”
                                                                                                                                              -NATA Press Release

James L. Thorton, MA, ATC, CES President NATA
Christopher Nowinski, founder Sports Legacy Institute
Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, University of Connecticut; Korey Stringer Institute
Dawn Comstock, PhD, Colorado School of Public Health at University of Colorado, Denver
Beth Mallon, Founder Advocates for Injured Athletes and Alliance representative
Charles Gfeller, Esq.
Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Matthew Gfeller Sport Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center

The plan includes a brief list of general recommendations as well as condition specific recommendations around cardiac events, neurological injuries, environmental/exertional injuries, and substance-induced conditions. The general recommendations are as follows:

Require that all schools have a comprehensive athletic health care administrative program and an athletic health care team to prevent and immediately manage injuries and illnesses. The team consist of a physician, athletic trainer, school nurse or other health care professional and the athletic director.

Require that all schools assure safe practice and safe play facilities appropriate to each sport to reduce accidents and the spread of disease. Safe facilities are regularly inspected and maintained, routinely cleaned to avoid spread of disease and accessible to treatment and/or transport areas.

Require that all schools provide permanent, appropriately equipped areas in which injured athletes may be evaluated and treated by health care professionals, because early assessment and intervention encourages proper healing and decreases the risk of re-injury. Having a designated area is critical in the management of life- or limb-threatening conditions.

Require that all schools have a place for confidential conversations with athletes and parents about medical issues.

Require that all schools have a plan for selection, fit, function and proper maintenance of athletic equipment, as well as training for school staff.

Require that all schools have injury and illness prevention strategies, including protocols for environmental conditions. Educated personnel in every sport should understand and utilize professional guidelines for preventing and treating injuries and sports-related illnesses.

Require that all schools inform athletes and parents of the potential risks in sports as well as their individual responsibility to avoid and minimize injuries.

Parents should educate themselves in the potential benefits and risks of optional protective equipment.

Advocate for the creating of a national fatality registry of secondary school athletes who have died during or as a result of sports-related injuries, such as cardiac arrest, neurologic damage, steroid abuse, etc.

Student Athletes have the right to be coached by individuals who are well trained in sport-specific safety and to be monitored by athletic health care team members.

Student Athletes have the right to equality, regular pre-participation examinations and each athlete has the right to participate under a comprehensive concussion management plan.

Student Athletes have the right to participate in sporting activities on safe, clean playing surfaces, in both indoor and outdoor facilities.

Student Athletes have the right to utilize equipment and uniforms that are safe, fitted appropriately and routinely maintained, and to appropriate personnel trained in proper removal of equipment in the case of injury.

Student Athletes have the right to participate safely in all environmental conditions where play follows approved guidelines and medical policies and procedures, with a hydration plan in place.

Student Athletes have the right to a safe playing environment with venue-specific emergency action plans that are coordinated by the athletic health care team and regularly rehearsed with local emergency personnel.

Student Athletes have the right to privacy of health information and proper referral for medical, psychosocial and nutritional counseling.

Student Athletes have the right to participate in a culture that finds “playing through pain” unacceptable unless there has been a medical assessment.

Student Athletes have the right to immediate, on-site injury assessments with decisions made by qualified sports medicine professionals.

Student Athletes have the right, along with their parents, to the latest information about the benefits and potential risks of participation in a competitive sports including access to statistics on fatalities and catastrophic injuries to youth athletes.

When my son was injured in 2009, little did I know when rushing to the hospital that just eight months’ post injury, Tommy and I would be speaking in Sacramento, at the Capitol, to reporters and experts on sports injuries. I know that some of you have had that same experience. One day we’re parents, the next – parent activists.
                                                                                                                                                              -Beth Mallon

The Youth Sports Safety Alliance has come a long way since its inception 2010 and Beth and Tommy and Advocates for Injured Athletes continue to work to improve the safety conditions for young athletes all across the country whether it’s through Athletes Saving Athletes® or speaking as a parent advocate.

"I am very humbled and proud to be involved with NATA and the YSSA since the initial summit in 2010 when Tommy and I gave testimonials in Sacramento. Since that time , it has been very rewarding to see the number of YSSA members grow to over 100. In addition, we have seen student athlete fatalities drop. I cannot help but feel when we all work together we have a much larger voice and impact on the mission of protecting student athletes. I was honored to deliver the YSSA update and look ahead to seeing the benefits of our collective efforts for this coming year."
                                                                                                               -Beth Mallon, following the Summit (2013)

If you’re interested in some of the press from the summit (including a video interview with Beth) check out Advocates for Injured Athletes’ Facebook page.