, Newburyport, MA


February 7, 2013

Group: Students need better sports safety

WASHINGTON — Student athletes need access to health care professionals, better-trained coaches and up-to-date equipment, a coalition of groups recommended yesterday in a call to action aimed at protecting the almost 8 million students participating in high school sports each year.

The Youth Sports Safety Alliance of more than 100 organizations released the proposed rules, which call for health providers such as athletic trainers or doctors available for every school, warnings about performance-enhancing substances for athletes and the creation of a national registry to track student athlete deaths. The rules also would require schools to have clean and well-maintained facilities, and require students to have a pre-season physical exam, including testing for some of the 400,000 concussions students suffer annually.

Many of the proposed requirements are already standard practice, state athletic officials said. The biggest hurdle, however, is medical care.

Only 42 percent of high schools have access to an athletic trainer and 47 percent of schools even come up short on the federally recommended nurse-to-student ratio.

“You get into schools with less than 30 kids in the schools, they’re not going to have the money,” New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director Patrick Corbin said. “They’re lucky if they can find a physician in those places.”

In his state, for instance, schools are required to have medical care for students during games and practice. But that can range from an on-site physician in the densely populated southern part of his state to a cellphone to call an ambulance in the rural north.

Additionally, a student athlete in New Hampshire can use a freshman-year physical exam for all four years of competition.

“In some of these places, good luck affording and finding a physician to do one,” he said.

Organizers called their “Secondary School Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights” the first comprehensive and national plan aimed at protecting students who participate on their schools’ teams. The group is urging each state athletic association to adopt their blueprint.

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