safe sport

    It is estimated that physical inactivity causes 6-10 percent of all deaths from major non-communicable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.1 According to The Lancet, males and females “of all ages, socioeconomic groups, andethnicities are healthier if they achieve the public health recommendation of at least 150 minutes per week ofmoderate intensity aerobic physical activity.”2 And we know that habits formed in youth last a lifetime.

    Technology continues to have a strong presence in young lives, making it easier to watch television or play video games. And school-based organized physical activity may not be as common as it once was. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that as of 2006, only 15.2 percent of middle/junior high schools offered physical education courses three days a week. The GAO also reported, however, that competitive sports activities have increased.3 With that in mind, it is vital that school staff, parents and others responsible for student athlete health are aware of current protocols.

    Despite its obvious benefits, physical activity – especially competitive sports – is not without risk.4,5 Brain injury (concussion), cardiac arrest, devastating heat illness, exertional sickling, cervical spine fractures and other injuries and illnesses are all serious and potentially life-threatening. According to information gathered by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, as many 100 secondary school athletes die per year, the majority from suddencardiac arrest. Risk is not limited to one or two sports; athletes may be injured or become ill while cheerleading or in marching band, as well as while playing soccer, football, volleyball, basketball or lacrosse.

    Fortunately, risks can be minimized by proper planning and with proper equipment and personnel. Without that, injuries and medical conditions will impact the lives of athletes and their families, and may be costly in terms of time lost from school, jobs and medical visits. In 2009 athletes age 5-14 years accounted for almost 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals, with the severity of the injury increasing with the age of the participant.6

    While emergency medical care and event coverage are critical components of sports safety, the ideal standard goes beyond that to comprise other health services. Fortunately, schools can institute plans and procedures through a series of relatively simple steps, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) wants to do itspart to encourage the highest degree of safety for student athletes. To recognize the effort of schools that take action, NATA will award its prestigious Safe Sports School award to schools that represent that their athletic programs meet the criteria described below.


    In order to achieve Safe Sports School status, athletic programs must do the following:

    Create a comprehensive athletic health care administrative system

    Provide or coordinate pre-participation physical examinations

    Promote safe and appropriate practice and competition facilities

    Plan for selection, fit, function and proper maintenance of athletic equipment

    Provide a permanent, appropriately equipped area to evaluate and treat injured athletes 

    Develop injury and illness prevention strategies, including protocols for environmental conditions 

    Provide or facilitate injury intervention 

    Create and rehearse venue-specific Emergency Action Plans 

    Provide or facilitate psychosocial consultation and nutritional counseling/education 

    Educate athletes and parents about the potential benefits and risks in sports as well as their