School Sports Safety Rules

Fall sports season is fast approaching and I wanted to take this time to make both parents and kids aware of some new rule changes that will be in affect starting this sports season.

SAFETY IN YOUTH SPORTS ACT

Effective on July 1, 2012 – Any child determined to be exhibiting signs of a traumatic brain injury will be immediately removed from his or her activity. The coach will not be allowed to return the child to play until the child has been evaluated and cleared by an appropriate medical professional.

An appropriate medical professional is considered to be a licensed physician trained in the evaluation and management of concussion or a licensed/certified health care professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussion that has been designated by a licensed physician. A licensed psychologist with specialized training in neuropsychology and concussions also is permitted to evaluate an injured child.

At Kids Plus, we have two trained providers — both Dr. Godinez and I — who have completed training in evaluating/treating concussions. We’re the “go to people” for these types of evaluations here at Kids Plus.

Coaches of sports teams will be required, once a school year, to complete a concussion management certification course and will not be permitted to coach until that course is completed. Children and parents/guardians will be required each school year to review and sign a concussion and traumatic brain injury information sheet as part of the clearance process.

These new concussion guidelines are only mandatory for athletic activities associated with or sponsored by a school entity. These include PIAA sports, Cheerleading, club sports, and sports activities sponsored by school-affiliated organizations. They are not mandatory for youth sports, though youth sports organizations are encouraged to follow the same guidelines.

POP WARNER FOOTBALL

One youth organization that will be changing its rules to help aid in injury prevention is Pop Warner Football. Starting in the 2012 season, it’s now against the rules to have full-speed, head-on blocking or tackling drills where the players line up more than 3 yards apart from each other. It’s permitted to have lineman line up directly across the line of scrimmage from each other, as well as having full speed tackling drills in which players approach each other at an angle.

Pop Warner is also reducing the total amount of contact that is allowed at practice. Starting this season, contact time will be reduced to a maximum of 1/3 of practice time. This could be either 40 minutes per practice, or 1/3 of total weekly practice time.

SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST RULE

A second new rule that will take effect this sports season is in regards to sudden cardiac arrest. Any student athlete that exhibits any signs or symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest will be immediately removed from the activity. As with the concussion legislation, an athlete is only allowed to return to activity after he or she has been evaluated and cleared by a qualified practitioner. Coaches will also be required to take sudden cardiac arrest training courses. As with the concussion law, these changes only affect school-sponsored sports, but youth organizations are again encouraged enforce the new regulations.

These new guidelines are important measures to help ensure the safety of young athletes. These new pieces of legislation will allow injured athletes to be cared for properly, so they can return to the game only when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

Travis Lewis is a certified Athletic Trainer and a certified Physician Assistant.