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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Legislation aims to improve safety for young athletes

Walking off a sport injury isn’t as easy as it sounds.

A piece of California legislation aims to add precautionary measures to ensure the safety of young athletes.

Representatives Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) and Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) are working together with the California Athletic Trainers Association (CATA) to put forth AB 1646 and AB 1647. California Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) is one of the co-authors of this bipartisan legislation.

Ross Warren, chief consultant in the office of Mary Hayashi, believes the awareness on sports safety must improve.

“We want to raise awareness and the bar statewide,” Warren said. “This bill reinforces the notion that sports injuries can have serious consequences. The safety of sports is a continuing evolutionary process, like the equipment used in them.”

Warren said the bill is not a big mandate on schools and does not have a large impact from a fiscal standpoint. He believes it is necessary to elevate the status quo on the safety of high school athletes who can potentially sustain injuries such as concussions, heart ailments and heat stroke.

The intent of AB 1646 is to provide high school coaches a program to become more educated regarding sports injuries. The California Interscholastic Federation requires coaches to know CPR and first-aid, but this bill requires specialized education concerning potential catastrophic injuries.

AB 1647 focuses on the Department of Education working with CATA or another professional organization to provide safer standards. For example, the bill calls for an automated external defibrillator to be on site, as well as a detailed set of procedures in the event of an emergency. The main focus, however, is to ensure high school athletes who sustain a head injury are evaluated by a licensed physician or a trainer working under the directions of a doctor.

CATA President Mike West believes there is an epidemic in the country because of the significant increase in reported injuries among young athletes.

“Football is the target sport, but we want all coaches and staff to protect their athletes by being educated and aware of serious injuries,” West said.

A study done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, shows that over a 26 year time period, from the fall of 1982 through the spring of 2008, there were 152 fatalities, 379 disability injuries, and 374 serious injuries with complete recovery associated with high school sports across the country.

Lisa Varnum, an athletic trainer at UC Davis and Secretary of CATA, said the National Collegiate Athletic Association provides more safeguards, so the severity of the issue is not as great for college athletes.

“The possibility of a major injury exists in all sports,” Varnum said. “At the collegiate level, however, we have a more adequate staff because we follow an intensive set of guidelines and procedures.”

Knowing the conditions and the personality of the athlete helps assess an injury.

“No head injury is the same and most high schools don’t have the personnel to recognize – especially on a subjective basis – the symptoms that can signal significant brain trauma,” Varnum said.

The National Football League recently made stricter guidelines for players who sustain head injuries. If the medical staff, including specialized neurologists, observe certain symptoms the player will not be allowed to return to the game, whereas the old rule allowed players to return unless they lost consciousness.

MICHAEL STEPANOV can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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