New Concussion Safety Law Introduced

ConcussionNew legislation was signed into law earlier this month in the state of Illinois to introduce a strict set of rules to youth sports organizations when dealing with concussions.

The new Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, designed to help youth organizations across the state better prepare for sports-related concussions, was signed earlier this month.

The clear set of rules is much more concrete than the previously followed method and offers administrators specificity when dealing with a concussion – making the process easier for clubs to follow and enforce.

The law requires every school to implement an emergency plan to follow when a concussion occurs. Each district is required to construct a Concussion Oversight Committee, which is to be made up of a doctor, nurses, coaches, athletic trainers, and other individuals to ensure the school district is adhering to appropriate concussion policies.

Coaches are required to take at least two hours of educational clinics every two years, working to keep them more informed about how to deal with concussions.

The law also requires school to create “Return to Learn” guidelines to regulate how and when student athletes are able to return to the classroom after having experienced a concussion.

The goal of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act is to educate school administrators and coaches about proper concussion protocols so each incident can be managed to the best of their ability the first time it occurs – which in turn will increase the chances of each student-athlete returning to the field.

What are your thoughts on the introduction of this new Concussion Safety Act? Leave your comments in the section below!

Surprising Facts You Never Knew About Mouthguards

Mouth GuardStereotypes of toothless hockey players give parents a false sense of dental security when their children are participating in a sport like soccer.

If you assumed that sports like youth football, lacrosse, or ice hockey had the highest number of mouth injuries, you would be wrong!

Since the early 1970’s, these sports have seen a drastic decline in the number of dental and jaw injuries due to the use of mouth guards in both youth and high school levels.

In fact, the Academy of General Dentistry found that soccer players are far more likely to sustain a dental-related injury than football players. Studies show that youth sports with far less protection requirements suffer the greatest number of dental and jaw injuries. These sports include baseball, basketball, soccer, field hockey, softball and gymnastics.

Get The Facts

The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety finds dental injuries to be the most common type of mouth, jaw or face injury sustained during sports participation. An athlete is 60 times more likely to damage their teeth when they are not taking advantage of a mouthguard.

Approximately 36 percent of all unintentional injuries involving children and adolescents involve sports. Of that percentage, 10-20 percent of all sports-related injuries affect the jaw and face.

Of the seven million sports-related injuries that occur each year, more than half of them are sustained by youth players as young as five years old according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2013 it was estimated that more than three million teeth would be knocked out in youth sporting events.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry found that oral injuries for female athletes exceed those in males.

Even with all of these alarming statistics, 67 percent of parents admitted that their children do not wear a protective mouthguard while participating in sporting events.

The Solution

Suffering dental damage during a game can lead to decay, periodontal disease, or even tooth loss. Studies show that damage to baby teeth can lead to permanent damage and interfere with tooth growth and jawbone development.

Young athletes protect themselves during sports by wearing helmets, shin guards, and gloves – so why not wear something to protect their teeth?

Mouth guards are available at drug stores in the “boil and bite” variety or can be custom made by your child’s dentist.

The American Dental Association recommends wearing a mouthguard while participating in acrobatics, baseball, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, softball, squash, surfing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling. The ADA also recommends wearing a mouthguard during all practices and competitions.

Some research even suggests that a properly fitted mouthguard may help reduce the rate of concussion in addition to dental injuries.

As young players continue to grow, tooth position and jaw size will also experience changes. Regular dentist visits and mouthguard checks work to keep young mouths safe.

After reading the facts, will you be scheduling your child a mouthguard dentist visit before next season? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

The Ban On Heading Gains Famous Support

Youth football has been facing public critique and declining participation over recent years due to its association with head injuries.

With the number of parents ready to withdraw their children from the sport already at an all-time high, The American Journal of Sports Medicine released survey results indicating that football does indeed experience the greatest incidence of concussions among high school athletes.

However, little attention has been drawn to the second highest concussion sport – girls’ soccer.

Headers in soccer and the collisions that often go hand-in-hand with them, are a leading cause of concussion in today’s world of youth sports.

As this fact continues to fly under the radar, soccer’s governing bodies have yet to create one universal set of guidelines when it comes to introducing headers in youth soccer.

The majority of organizations discourage teaching young athletes headers until they reach the age of ten. Others choose not to introduce the technique altogether.

Proper Technique

The thought of eliminating headers from the game of soccer has sparked recent controversy in the sports community.

For dedicated soccer fans, heading (especially at higher levels of play) is a critical part of the game. Professional players like Abby Wambach – having scored more than 40 percent of her record number of goals in international competition with her head – act as an example of the importance of headers.

They believe that if players plan to use their heads at upper levels, the safest approach is to teach them how to use their heads correctly at a young age.

The proper technique requires the player to propel their forehead straight forward through the ball, using their arms and torso to generate force.

However, a player rarely heads the ball with ample time to position their body correctly. When fighting over a ball mid-air the players often have to creatively aim, causing them to strike the ball to the side.

Hitting the ball straight-on can cause the brain to accelerate in line with the skull, but hitting at an angle can cause the brain to twist within the skull – causing damage.

Soccer Support

No HeaderWorld Cup soccer star, Brandi Chastain, is stepping in to support a new rule change requiring that no headers be allowed for players under 14 years old.

Chastain has been promoting the Safer Soccer Campaign to raise awareness about the relationship between heading the ball and concussions.

The Safer Soccer Campaign believes that youth coaches can take pre-emptive steps to reduce the risk of concussions, starting with placing a higher emphasis on footwork rather than headers. As an added bonus, players will develop stronger fundamental skills as a result.

Safer Soccer and Chastain recommend not introducing young athletes to headers until they enter high school, after their brains have had a chance to develop.

What do you think about the potential ban on headers? Leave a comment in the section below to let us know how you feel about a future regulation change!

The Truth About Turf Field Safety

Turf Field

This isn’t your average Turf Safety post talking about knee and leg injuries. Instead we’re focusing on chemicals. More specifically – how prolonged exposure to chemicals can affect young athletes.

The Golden Rule of Parenting: Monitor what your children are about to put into their mouths at all times. Keep small, dangerous objects away.

This rule is adopted early-on in parenthood and abided by until there is no longer any apparent risk of choking or digesting harmful substances. So the answer to this next questions should seem pretty obvious: Would you let your children consume chemicals like copper, mercury, arsenic, or acetone? Absolutely Not.

Unfortunately that might not be reality for many of us. Millions of young athletes are ingesting harmful chemicals every time they leave the house for sports practice.

A substance called “tire crumb,” or ground rubber, is recovered from recycled scrap tires and used in synthetic turf fields as the “infill” between the plastic grass fibers to provide stability and uniformity. The material is used in countless municipal parks, golf courses, playgrounds, airports, tracks, and sports fields around the US.

The Research

The Environmental Protection Agency performed a study on the substance in 2009 after concerns were raised over the safety of chemicals found in tires. The results identified a number of compounds that may be found in tires – although not all tires contain the same materials. The list includes Acetone, Arsenic, Barium, Chromium, Latex, Lead, Mercury, Phenol, and Rayon just to name a few.

Even with the harmful chemicals present, the limited study concluded that the concentrations of materials that made up the ground rubber were below the levels considered harmful. Given the limited number of constituents monitored, sample sites, and samples extracted from each sites, it was not possible to extend the results to a more comprehensive conclusion without additional data.

So there you have it – the EPA found that the chemicals were below harmful levels. So why is this still relevant years later?

The Controversy Revival

In October 2014, NBC News released an investigation that re-opened the concerns over the safety of the synthetic fields. Associate head coach for the University of Washington’s women’s soccer team, Amy Griffin, has been working since 2009 to collect the names of sick players, specifically goalies, who she believes fell victim to the chemicals they were exposed to after two young female goalies she knew had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Griffin teamed up with NBC to expose her findings and ask for some answers.

Although not a scientific data set, Griffin uses personal experience with the tiny black rubber crumbs to support her theory. As any players knows, the field’s crumbs get everywhere – in their uniforms, their hair, their cleats. But this is especially true for goalkeepers. Goalkeepers experience the most direct contact with the turf during practices and games as they dive to defend the goal. They leave the field with the pellets in their cuts and scrapes, and in their mouths.

Griffin has compiled a growing list of 38 American soccer players, 34 of which are goalies, who have been diagnosed with cancer. Blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia dominate the list.

EPA’s Response

Crumb RubberAlthough it’s practically impossible to pinpoint the origin of a disease like cancer, why not use the resources available in the US and research this topic further?

NBC contacted the EPA in 2013 to ask them just that. The EPA stated that a meeting was held in 2010 with state and federal officials in which they declared that the “EPA determined that this is not an issue.” There are no plans to conduct further studies on the subject in the future.

The Aftermath

In the wake of the NBC story, turf field installments around the country have sparked a highly contested debate. With one side supporting the existing studies, and the other demanding more research, fields have continued to be postponed, protested, and installed in the media spotlight.

Following the news investigation, the installment plans for an artificial field in Ocean City, New Jersey have been postponed until further research can be performed.

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian announced, “I have directed my staff to discontinue the planned project to install this material at Carey Stadium. While I am aware that there are no studies demonstrating a health risk associated with such turf, I have come to believe that further study is necessary.” Pending the outcome of further studies, the Mayor is not ruling out the installation of the turf field in the future. But for now the City plans to maintain their existing natural grass field.

High school fields are following suit. Only days away from the installation process, Kennedy Catholic High School in Washington immediately switched gears. Scrapping the crumb rubber, the school will instead be using a Nike infill made up of recycled tennis shoe soles. School Principal Mike Prato and Coach Bob Bourgette agreed that “recognizing the tests and reports are not confirmed about the cancer risk, we still chose to mitigate the concerns of our community and go with Nike Grind.”

But supporters of the fields note that all evidence collected so far by experimental studies and state and federal agencies have proven that the artificial surfaces are safe.

The Golden Gate Park Project set to take place in the Beach Chalet soccer fields in San Francisco was approved through a public vote. A frustrated Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department expressed that the NBC concerns were preventing his agency from providing their local children with a badly needed resource. “We have studied this extremely thoroughly. We’re not in the business of harming the health of our children.” The Golden Gate Project had received approvals from the local government, environmental impact reports, the California Coastal Commission, and the Superior Court in California. When the issue was taken to the ballot, San Francisco residents approved the installation.

What’s Next For Turf Fields?

With the EPA declaring the fields safe, and a growing number of goalies stepping forward, the jury is still out on whether or not synthetic turf fields should raise concern.

For the Griffin’s theory and the full investigative story visit NBC’s website.  And for EPA’s side of the story? Read through their full page of results here.

Tell us what you think! Are turf fields safe? Leave us a comment in the section below.

Is Required Headgear The Right Move?

Headgear by HRP will be worn in Princeton School DistrictEarlier this year, Princeton School District began requiring sixth grade athletes playing soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey to wear protective headgear. The goal is for all athletes in sixth to twelfth grade to wear the headgear to help prevent head injuries.

As you can imagine, the move has sparked debate for a number of reasons. First, the headgear comes at a cost – up to $70 each. While the school district is covering the cost, such rules could be cost prohibitive to other areas.

More importantly, the effectiveness of such headgear to reduce the risk of concussions is unproven, according to multiple experts quoted in the article.

Do you think this initiative is the right one? Would you be happy if a similar policy made its way into your local school district?