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State Laws Aim to Make Youth Sports Safer, But More Work Needed

Monday, December 25, 2017By Nina Shapirshteyn

Most parents are thrilled when their children want to play sports. It’s good exercise, teaches cooperation and team building, and gets them away from their video games for a few hours a week. Youth sports offer many great benefits – as long as precautions are taken to make sure that children stay safe. In recent years there has been a push for schools and youth sports organizations to adopt safety standards for youth sports to make sure that the children that play are safe and to make sure that safety standards are in place in case of an emergency.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) recommends that schools and youth sports organizations implement safety procedures in three major areas of sports safety: Emergency Action Plans, Concussion Avoidance and Detection, and Heat Acclimatization. The aim of these safety procedures is to prevent sports injuries from happening in the first place and to provide prompt and adequate treatment when they do occur. While most states in the U.S. have come a long way in implementing these safety procedures, there are still considerable gaps that need to be addressed to make sure that youth sports are safe for everyone involved.

Emergency Action Plan

The first safety recommendation by the NATA is the Emergency Action Plan (EAP). An EAP is devised by schools and youth organizations to outline what should happen in the event of an accident or emergency. Part of the EAP includes designating coaches and other responsible adults who are trained in safety procedures and will take the lead in an event of an emergency. For example, NATA recommends that all schools and organizations that sponsor youth sports activities have access to an on-site Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).

Twenty-eight percent of states do require schools to develop an EAP which is an improvement over past years. However, only 50 percent of U.S. states meet the recommendation that all staff that work with youth athletes have access to an AED. Further, only 12 percent of U.S. states actually distribute a written EAP to staff members as recommended by NATA.

Concussion Avoidance and Detection

As the athletic community becomes more aware of serious side effects of concussions and the long-term possible effects of playing with an injury, many states have implemented a graduated return-to-play protocol before allowing athletes to resume playing or practicing.

To date, approximately 44 percent of U.S. states require a graduated return-to-play protocol. While this is a big improvement over past years, this is still less than half of U.S. states. This number needs to increase considerably to protect young athletes from the dangerous effects of a concussion and to allow their brain time to heal.


Current safety recommendations state that total practice time for youth sports should not exceed three hours in one day. Almost half of U.S. states follow this safety recommendation. But only 15 states meet minimum heat acclimatization best practices as considered by experts on sports injuries.

While U.S. states have made improvements on attempting to minimize youth sports injuries, there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made. If you or a loved one has been injured in a sports-related accident, you need knowledgeable and experienced lawyers on your side. The attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP will provide a free case evaluation to discuss your rights. With convenient office locations in San Jose and San Francisco, our team stands by ready to help. Contact us at 888.777.1776 or visit our website at www.alexanderlaw.com to find out more.

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