Football changes being raised

February 11, 2013

The new legislative session has barely begun and there are rumblings all across the country of changes to youth football. There is legislation being raised to ban Pop Warner/youth football and to limiting youth football to one hitting practice a week.

All of these changes are being raised at a time when youth athlete safety is a major concern. Coaches continue to be on the radar on this issue. The way that coaches do their job is being legislated. Before this session the mainly required coaches to be educated and to do the right thing in not returning an athlete before they were cleared. Now the laws are going further to hopefully protect the youth athlete.

But are the laws going far enough and doing enough? What really stops a coach from violating any of these laws? It is up to the school in most states to penalize the coach. What if the school fails to issue any penalty? Worse yet, what if a school fails to follow the law at all? Are the laws doing enough?

Many have questioned why states don’t just require the schools to hire an athletic trainer. This is unlikely in most states because of the fact that it is an unfunded mandate, but having a professional why is there for the protection of the athlete should not be a hard sell. After all, we have school nurses that are mandated by the states. Schools are required by law to provide physical, occupational, and speech therapy to students that need it for educational purposes. Why can’t the law require athletic training services to protect the safety of student-athletes?

Schools need to do more to prove that they are protecting the welfare of student-athletes. Until it is seen this way legislators are going to gain popularity by offering bills that are seen to protect children. There is nothing that is more sacred to people than their children.

Athletic trainers need to harness this opportunity to educate legislators about our role, our value, our importance, and the need. They need to hear from you. They may be willing to offer that legislation on your behalf. Sometimes all it takes is an ask. I would urge you to work with your state GAC to craft the message that works for your state. Legislators work for the public and want to hear your opinion. None of them know what you know. None of them are experts in this. You need to give them the information that will give them the power to do something.

Changes are happening. We can either go along for the ride or we can be the navigator. There will be opportunities to get involved and your state should be informing you in the weeks ahead. Be active in this important process.

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