Football Injuries: Keeping Teens Safe and Holding Coaches Accountable
Football is a major part of many Americans’ lives – including student-athletes. This contact sport has a high risk of serious injuries including concussions. Such injuries can have drastic impacts on the futures of middle- and high-school players. Coaches and schools have a responsibility to protect their student players, which means they need to employ proper safety procedures during games and practices.
The Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act and the Return-to-Learn After Concussion Policy
North Carolina law includes the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act, which went into effect in June 2011. This law provides protection to middle- and high-school athletes under North Carolina law. Coaches, trainers, athletes, and parents must all receive information about concussions every year. The act also requires removal of student-athletes from games if they have a suspected concussion. The athlete may not return to play unless he or she has received medical clearance.
Similarly, the Return-to-Learn After Concussion policy came into effect in North Carolina in 2015. This educational policy requires that schools develop plans to meet the needs of students who suffer concussions.
Both of these steps help prevent serious damage from concussions as well as keeping schools aware of the impact suffering a concussion can have on a student’s life. It’s important for coaches and schools to have plans for these emergencies, but they still are obligated to protect student-athletes from such accidents happening in the first place.
Keeping Teen Football Players Safe
Proper awareness for potential football players can go a long way to keeping teen athletes safe. Coaches play important roles in how teens practice and participate in games, and these adults should always follow best practices to ensure player safety. Here are some ways coaches can protect student-athletes:
- Follow USA Football regulations. USA Football governs amateur football activities and provides regulations to maintain the safety of the sport. Some of the newest regulations include limits on the number of players on the field, mandated position rotations, putting players of equal size against each other, and the number of coaches allowed on the field to organize players.
- Ensure players are properly ready for play. Coaches should conduct pre-season physicals and help students maintain the correct level of fitness for play. Athletes should go through warm-up stretches before practices and games, as well as cool-down stretches after activity.
- Have USA Football or Youth Football Coaches Association certifications. Going through these programs ensures coaches have the knowledge of safety fundamentals and follow best practices. Any coaches who have these certifications should share their knowledge with other staff members.
- Keep athletes hydrated. Dehydration is a serious concern, especially in high-intensity activities such as football. A student can easily overheat or experience other health issues without enough water. Coaches should encourage proper hydration habits and make sure athletes regularly break for water during practice and games.
- Have a player-safety coach. At least one coach for the team should be the designated player-safety coach. This individual is responsible for teaching athletes about health issues, encouraging safe playing practices, and making sure everyone can recognize the signs of serious injuries, such as concussions.
- Check that all athletes wear appropriate equipment. Football has numerous pieces of safety equipment that help protect players. Coaches should ensure players have access to all the necessary gear and not permit play if someone is missing essential equipment. Athletes should also receive education on proper wear and maintenance of all protective gear.
These steps are just some of the things coaches can do to help keep student-athletes safe. Coaches can protect students from serious injuries that could impact the rest of a student’s life through a combination of awareness, safety training, emergency preparation, and timely reactions.