Keeping Athletes Safe With Limited Resources: Tips and Tricks 
Emily Brook, BA and Elizabeth Matzkin, MD

Athlete safety should always be the number one priority of parents, coaches, and players of all sports, from youth recreational leagues to varsity high school teams. Injuries can and do occur at any level of competition in all sports. While some teams have access to an athletic trainer and a full-time medical staff, other teams do not.  For teams with limited access to medical resources, responsibility for the safety of athletes often falls on the parents and coaches. Below, we provide some athlete safety tips for parents and coaches of athletes who may have limited access to professional medical help.

Designate a team CPR/First Aid Certified Provider

At least one person at every practice, game, or team event should be CPR and First Aid certified. Most leagues require coaches to hold this certification, so check to see if your team’s coach is certified. If they are not, designate one or a few parents who have or are willing to become CPR and First Aid certified. You can visit the American Heart Association webpage to find classes near you. In the event of a serious medical emergency, having someone on the sidelines capable of performing CPR and First Aid until help arrives can make all the difference. 

Hydration Nation

Make sure that athletes have ample access to water before, during, and after practice. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke during the hot spring, summer, and fall months and can lead to devastating consequences such as brain damage or death. You can lower the risk of heat-related illness by keeping athletes adequately hydrated during all physical activity.  Not all teams have access to cold running water or ice at every practice and game. While many coaches require that athletes bring their own water bottle and water to practices and games, sometimes athletes can forget to bring water or run out on a hot day.  Help to keep athletes hydrated by coming up with a schedule and designate one parent or coach per practice or game to bring extra bottles of cold water, so that athletes who may have forgotten or ran out can still hydrate. It is always a good idea to allow for plenty of water breaks in practices and games so that athletes have plenty of opportunities to hydrate. 

Invest in a team first aid kit

Not all teams have access to their own medical professional or an athletic trainer’s medical kit. A first aid kit at every practice and game can provide immediate care for bumps and bruises and more serious injuries. A well-stocked medical kit that is adequate for most levels and types of youth sports is reasonably priced and well worth the investment. The cost can be split among the parents and coaches of the team and should be covered without asking too much. Pre-made medical kits can be purchased online or you can stock your own with these recommended items.

Check for safe field conditions

Too many sports injuries are caused by unsafe field conditions. Before every practice and game, come up with a schedule and designate a parent or coach to walk through the field you are scheduled to play on. Any divots or uneven surfaces can lead to ankle sprains or even ligamentous injuries. If a parent sees unsafe field conditions, a coach and league official should be notified immediately and athletes should not be allowed to play on that surface.

Educate parents and athletes to speak up

Injuries can be complicated, not all signs and symptoms associated with potentially serious conditions are obvious. It is important for parents, coaches, and athletes to be educated on the signs and symptoms of several potentially dangerous injuries, like concussions and heat-related illness. Many educational resources exist online on the STOP Sports Injuries webpage for injury prevention by sport and injury. Follow the links below for fact sheets and educational resources on concussion and heat-related illness. In addition, keep a dialogue open with your athletes and encourage them to speak up if they have been injured or feel ill. If you suspect a concussion, heat-related illness, or a serious injury, seek professional medical help immediately. 

Concussion Resources
Heat-Related Illness Resources

Remember, if you suspect any serious medical issues or any lingering and concerning injuries, always seek professional medical care for proper diagnosis and treatment. Keep your athletes on the field having fun and playing the game they love by following these tips and making athlete safety the number one priority.