In response to the Korey Stringer Institute’s ranking of state high school associations in the area of managing injury risk to high school student-athletes, NFHS Executive Director Bob Gardner has released the following statement and accompanying support information.
NFHS STATEMENT ON MANAGING INJURY RISK IN HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
In order to provide the safest and most enjoyable experience for the 7.9 million participants in high school sports, it takes a concerted effort on the part of every organization connected to interscholastic athletics.
For a number of years, the NFHS and its member state associations have worked cooperatively with organizations such as the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) to provide as much information as possible for the nation’s 19,000-plus high schools regarding heat illness awareness and prevention, as well as other safety issues related to the heart and head injuries.
Unfortunately, the Korey Stringer Institute has proclaimed itself as judge and jury of heat-illness prevention and other safety issues by ranking the 51 NFHS-member state high school associations – these very associations that have been promoting risk-minimization precautions in their schools’ athletic programs for many more years than the seven-year existence of the KSI.
The overall safety of student-athletes competing in high school sports is a key objective of the NFHS and all 51 state associations. Information on precautions related to heat and head issues is regularly shared with schools across the country. While the 19,000 high schools range in size from 50 students to 5,000, there has never been a time that coaches, athletic directors and school administrators were more focused on risk minimization.
Very simply, a review of state association websites, such as the one employed by KSI, is an incomplete measurement of the efforts employed by states to assist their member schools with heat, heart and head issues. Providing more research data, as well as funds to enact more prevention programs, would be much more useful than giving grades to these associations.
For the past three years, the state high school associations have attended annual sports medicine meetings with KSI, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. The meetings have been entitled “Collaborative Solutions,” and they have been intended as an opportunity to share ideas about heat illness, cardiac problems and head injuries. The participating organizations have worked together, and the nation’s young athletes have benefited.
Now, KSI has utilized a new approach. By “grading” state high school associations based on a limited number of criteria, KSI has chosen to shine a light on certain areas, but it has left others in the dark. Thus, the information provided today gave an incomplete view. The full picture is much more positive. In fact, the state high school associations, and their respective sports medicine committees, post guidelines, speak at seminars, give warnings and alerts, and otherwise promote the health and well-being of young people. Certainly, there is room for improvement, and the American educational system will continue to be resource-challenged. Schools will need more funding, more defibrillators, more athletic trainers and more constructive legislation. With the assistance of everyone who cares about young athletes, including KSI, we can keep getting better.
The NFHS and its 51 member state associations are disappointed that KSI is, in essence, criticizing many states in this area rather than continuing to work with these groups in a collaborative relationship.
Protecting the health and safety of our nation’s high school student-athletes is an ongoing focus of all NFHS state associations. Following are some of the numerous initiatives undertaken by the NFHS in conjunction with its member state associations in the area of managing risk for the 7.9 million participants in high school sports.
Through the NFHS Learning Center at www.NFHSLearn.com, the NFHS offers a free course titled Heat Illness Prevention at https://nfhslearn.com/courses/34000/heat-illness-prevention as well as its core course First Aid, Health and Safety at https://nfhslearn.com/courses/26/first-aid-health-and-safety, which was developed with its partner, the American Red Cross.
In addition, the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee provides state associations and its member schools additional heat-related guidelines on the sports medicine page of its website at http://www.nfhs.org/resources/sports-medicine/ as well as the NFHS Heat Acclimatization and Heat Illness Prevention Position Statement at https://www.nfhs.org/media/1015653/heat-acclimatization-and-heat-illness-prevention-position-statement-2015.pdfand the NFHS Position Statement and Recommendations for Maintaining Hydration to Optimize Performance and Minimize the Risk for Exertional Heat Illness at http://www.nfhs.org/media/1014751/nfhs_smac_hydration_position_statement_october_2014.pdf.
The cover story of the May 2017 issue of High School Today – “Dangers of Heat Illness Reduced by Following Proper Guidelines” by David Csillan – offered some tremendous resources: http://www.nfhs.org/articles/dangers-of-heat-illness-reduced-by-following-proper-guidelines/.
In 2015, the NFHS provided the “Anyone Can Save a Life” emergency action plan toolkit originally developed by the Minnesota State High School League to member state associations for distribution to the nation’s schools. Through this program, schools have activated Emergency Action Plans, including the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). More information on the “Anyone Can Save a Life” program is available at http://www.anyonecansavealife.org/.
The NFHS also offers its free course on Sudden Cardiac Arrest at https://nfhslearn.com/courses/61032/sudden-cardiac-arrest, which was developed with its partner, Simon’s Fund.