Costello Op-Ed: Teamwork on, off field builds success, promotes safety
As published in the Daily Local News
The buzz surrounding the scholastic fall sports season is here. Preseason has come to an end. Friday night lights are ready to be flipped. I am excited for the many students (and their spectating parents!) who have spent so much time training, and are now ready to compete in scholastic athletics across southeastern Pennsylvania in the months to come.
With the start of a new school year and scholastic sports season, we have a perfect opportunity to raise awareness about how we can improve the athletic experience of our secondary school student-athletes and promote sound practices to ensure that our children stay healthy and in the game.
As a former high school and college athlete, I remember all too well the pre-game and pre-practice routines that my coaches used to require before we could start to play. Run a few laps around the field. Stretch your calves, each leg, ten times. Repeat.
At the time, it seemed like nothing more than a boring hurdle to get over in order to get to the game. However, as we see more and more instances of student-athlete injuries – including lingering and sometimes permanent injuries – athletic training and preparation is viewed through a much different lens today than it was 20 years ago.
Part of the reason is we’re seeing greater participation in sports and more offerings and opportunities for boys and girls to compete. In the 2013 to 2014 academic year, nearly 7.8 million secondary school students participated in athletics.
However, with this increase in participation, we’re also seeing a corresponding increase in sports-related injuries. Over 1.24 million children visited emergency rooms for sports-related injuries in 2013, and nearly 8 percent of these emergency room visits are related to concussions. Likewise, we’re seeing greater concern raised about the threat posed by heat-related injuries or the negative effects that energy drinks and “nutritional” supplements pose to our growing children.
While the injury statistics are certainly eye-opening, we cannot overlook the benefits of physical fitness for America’s youth. Sports help our children learn invaluable teamwork and sportsmanship skills, and participation has shown to improve mental health and lower rates of youth obesity. The threat of injury should not discourage athletic participation, but it should not be taken lightly.
So, how can we find a reasonable balance?
One way we can help is to raise awareness about the importance of coordinated efforts to develop best practices to prevent and address student athlete injury.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to introduce H. Res. 112, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of the Secondary School Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights. This encourages greater communication, coordination, and teamwork among coaches, parents, teachers, and medical professionals to ensure that our children receive adequate training, safe equipment and facilities, and immediate on-site injury assessment.
Further, the Secondary School Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights is supported by a diverse alliance of over 100 organizations dedicated to improving the health of our student athletes including the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, the American Football Coaches Association, the American Heart Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Now this isn’t a call for greater government interaction. It’s simply a step towards encouraging and emphasizing the importance of proper safety measures to prevent athletic injuries.