A major health care concern has continued to grow since the 2010 reports about sports related concussions in current and former professional athletes – especially within the football community. That research led to an examination of youth-league football programs where it was found that other than a required sports physical, there were few processes or Best Practices in place regulating how coaches and other youth development professionals were to evaluate hurt players and educate parents on how to keep their kids safe while playing football.
While the topic of concussions with current and former professional athletes gain most of the media’s attention, the frequency and side effects of premature Return to Play and Return to Learn (focusing on youth returning to School) are of equal or more concern in the most vulnerable population – young athletes from 6-14 years of age.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale runs the only Boys & Girls Clubs tackle football program in the state and in a bold, proactive response to this emerging health care concern, the Club contacted The CACTIS Foundation (CACTIS) with a special interest in developing a plan to address the issue of concussions. The two organizations partnered, committing to provide substantial resources to create a unique Youth Football Program aimed at educating young athletes, their parents, coaches and staff about the proper steps to reduce the number of concussions. They also instituted the “Best Practices” management of the young athlete suspected of sustaining this injury.
“The safety of our youth is our number one priority,” says Steve Davidson, President/CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. “We have an obligation to our members to stay on the forefront of information being published and discussed in the scientific literature and the media so we can provide the best programming possible – especially related to sports.”
In conjunction with the Banner Concussion Center and the CACTIS Foundation, the Club started the Safe Play initiative which includes; comprehensive baseline concussion-screening of all registrants in conjunction with preseason physical examinations, education training for families and reinforcing the “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out” policy. The policy enforces that in the absence of medical professionals on the sidelines, instructed coaches to remove from practice or a game any player sustaining a head blow and demonstrating any alteration in their behavior. These players were then referred to medical specialists for evaluation and recommendations as to when it was safe to “Return to Play” or “Return to Learn.”
Starting this year, a decision was made to restrict the registration for the Tackle Football Program to members over the age of 10, in keeping with guidelines and legislation emerging in many states and school districts. Younger members are being offered Flag Football as an alternative. Both programs are closely monitored for head blows throughout the season and emphasize the Safe Play initiative.
Also, a mandatory and comprehensive baseline concussion-screening program for all athletes in the tackle football program prior to the season and in conjunction with the routine preseason physical examinations.
“Educating parents, coaches and athletes to recognize the signs of concussions and the appropriate steps that health care providers should take in the prevention, diagnosis and management of concussions is one of the most important issues in sports medicine today,” said Dr. Steven M. Erickson, the medical director of the Banner Concussion Center.
Registration is now open for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale’s Football Program, with practices beginning in early September and baseline concussion screenings starting prior to the practice sessions. The acclaimed program, with its ongoing emphasis on safety, has been in existence for more than 25 years serving more than 2,000 kids ages 7-14. Registration fees start at $150 plus a $25 membership fee. For more information contact Sheila Scott, league director at (480) 947-6331 or Sheila.Scott@bgcs.org.