The week of July 15 marks National Youth Sports Week, as kids around the country are in full swing of summer sports or preparing for fall. The importance of an active lifestyle for youth is often spotlighted around the summer months, and safety should be in the same discussion as well. However, community sports leagues are often underfunded, lacking resources to ensure safe environments both on and off the field of play. According to the Aspen Institute, only about one-third of kids participate in regular team sports, and low safety standards are a top reason parents reconsider placing their children in sports leagues.
Safety initiatives have long been an obvious absence in youth sports, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, along with the TN Dept. of Health, has begun paving the way to safer sports with VUMC’s Safe Stars Initiative. The program certifies teams, leagues and facilities based on a three-star rating system (bronze, silver and gold) which considers a variety of safety issues to receive a Safe Stars certification. Safe Stars programs have already become required of some schools and leagues around the region and has already saved lives in emergency situations and improved the health of active youth. Some schools and leagues have made it a requirement for its teams.
Just to receive an initial Bronze rating, a sports entity must meet adhere to these safety standards:
- Emergency Action Plan (EAP) / Team emergency contacts (specific plan and practiced annually)
- Background checks completed on all coaches
- Minimum of 2 coaches CPR/AED certified (one always present)
- AED on site for all practices and games
- All coaches trained in concussion and sudden cardiac arrest recognition/management
- Severe weather policy (including heat and lightning)
- Anaphylaxis and Allergy Emergency plan
Standards for Silver Star (choose 2) and Gold Star (choose 4) Levels include:
- Pre-participation Physical Examination (PPE) required
- Risk and safety information/policies relayed to parents/guardians
- All coaches complete additional health, safety and injury prevention training
- All athletic equipment undergoes safety checks
- Medical professional (ATC, first responder, etc.) on site for all games
- Medical professional (ATC, first responder, etc.) on site for all practices
- ALL coaches CPR/AED certified
- On site tobacco policy / “Young Lungs at Play”
- Promote positive culture and standard of expectations regarding behavior
Safe Stars is a free and voluntary initiative in which all youth sports leagues can participate.