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Federal Legislation Aims to Ensure Safety of Youth Athletes

Two New Jersey members of Congress are looking to improve sports safety for student athletes.

Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. recently introduced the Supporting Athletes, Families and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act, or SAFE PLAY Act, aimed at improving the safety of youth athletes and focuses on various sports safety issues, such as heat exposure, EMS training, cardiac conditions, concussion response, and energy drink consumption. 

“Our SAFE PLAY Act will help ensure that coaches, trainers, parents and athletes are equipped with the proper resources to help treat and prevent sports-related injuries,” said Pascrell. “As our understanding of sports-related emergencies improves, so too must our response.”

Avoiding Hospital Trips

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million children across the U.S. participate in organized sports, 12% of those under 14 have been treated for a sports-related injury and 40% of those ages five to 14 have been treated in hospitals for sports-related injuries. 

“Athletics are a key part of childhood and we want our children to participate in sports, compete, play and have fun, but we also want them to be safe” said Sen. Menendez. “Young athletes and their parents must be assured that there are properly trained coaches, teachers, trainers and other personnel on the sidelines who are ready and equipped to respond to an injury or health emergency.”

Improve Treatment

The SAFE PLAY Act aims to prevent and improve the treatment of sports-related injuries and illnesses among youth athletes, including sudden cardiac arrest, heat stroke, and concussions by:

  • Directing the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department and CDC to develop and disseminate educational materials about high-risk cardiac conditions to school administrators, coaches, school health professionals, educators, families, and students;
  • Authorizing grants for educational agencies and schools to purchase automated external defibrillators (AED) and implement CPR and AED training courses;
  • Requiring educational agencies to develop and implement concussion safety action plans;
  • Directing the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and HHS, to develop and disseminate educational materials about excessive heat risks and safety recommendations;
  • Directing the CDC and the U.S. Department of Education to develop guidelines for emergency action plans for youth athletics;
  • Directing the Federal Drug Administration and CDC to develop and disseminate guidelines about safe energy drink consumption for youth athletes; and
  • Directing the CDC to expand research on the safety of youth athletes, and to report findings to Congress.

The legislation has broad support from leading sports safety advocates and organizations, including Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation, Sports Fans Coalition and PINK Concussions.   

Reduce Deaths

“The SAFE PLAY Act includes both primary and secondary prevention measures, which can help reduce the number of fatalities from cardiac arrests,” said Lisa Yue, founding executive director of the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation.

Katherine Snedaker, CEO and Founder of PINK Concussions added, “This legislation is needed to empower schools to develop equitable and effective concussion programs for staff and students whether the concussion occurs during a football game, a gym class, at recess or in the school hallway. School-wide awareness of the signs of brain injury, appropriate action plans, and concussion management teams are essential to support the recovery of both boys and girls.”

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