Ranking Last in Student-Athlete Safety Is No Laughing Matter

Whether you are a parent of a child in sports or you participated in sports growing up, you can understand the positive benefits that athletics had on you or your sons’ and daughters’ lives. Sports teaches friendship, sportsmanship, how to be on a team, winning in life and losing, and how to better yourself and strive towards a goal.

However, this all comes at a cost. Sports vary from highly physically demanding to little or no risk of injury. For example, there is a much greater risk of injury when it comes to football rather than the game of golf. I think I speak for all parents when I say that injuries are their greatest concern when it comes to sports.

football players rush field

Unfortunately, according to last year’s high school sports study, Colorado ranks last when it comes to certain safety guidelines that are meant to safeguard young athletes from possible life-threatening conditions. The Korey Stringer Institute, an institute that is in memory of the Minnesota Vikings football player who passed away from a heat stroke, ranked the states from 1-51 on sports safety and guidelines.

Colorado came in dead last. North Carolina and Kentucky ranked highest for sports safety. The Korey Stringer Institute states,

“Preparing for an emergency should be the top priority for schools to ensure the safety of their athletes. Through the implementation of required policies and procedures, schools can be well prepared in the unfortunate event of a catastrophic injury.”

The entire purpose of this study is to ensure the safety of all student-athletes in the event of an emergency. How did Colorado earn the lowest score out of all states?

“A rubric was created in which each state was assessed based on five equally weighted sections pertaining to sudden cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke, appropriate medical coverage, and emergency preparedness. Current evidence-based best practices from the Interassociation Task Force for Preventing Sudden Death in Secondary School Athletics published in the Journal of Athletic Training in 2013 were used to form the content of the grading rubric.”

It’s clear that Colorado needs to make some adjustments when it comes to the safety of young Colorado student-athletes. Each state’s results were sent to their corresponding high school athletic association executive directors.

Until policy changes are made, parents and student-athletes must be proactive by establishing open communication with coaches, ensuring that athletes are well-hydrated, recognize the signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke, identify symptoms of a concussion, and be able to act quickly in the event of sudden cardiac arrest. Take time this summer to have a dialogue with your child and their coach about their safety.

According to the Institute, “More than 7.8 million secondary school athletes participate in a wide variety of sanctioned sports annually.” Between 1982 to 2015, there have been 735 fatalities (185 from direct causes, 550 from indirect causes). During that time, there have also been 626 catastrophic injuries (613 from direct causes, 13 from indirect causes).

Direct causes are attributed to trauma — athlete-to-athlete or athlete-to-object contact — while indirect causes are exertion based (e.g. exertional heat stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, asthma).

These statistics are scary, to say the least. However, in the event of an emergency, it is crucial that there are proper life-saving procedures. The Korey Stringer Institute is asking that all high schools make simple policy changes that could potentially save lives. Their research concluded that it would cost each school district less than $5,000 per school year.

What do you think of Colorado’s ranking? We want to know! Tell us in the comments.

Here’s what to do if you suspect someone has a concussion.