Advocates for Injured Athletes is just one of many foundations that’s mission is to improve the sport safety experience for all young athletes. Beth and A4IA got its start after Tommy survived a potentially fatal neck injury and concussion while other organizations get their start after a tragedy (Taylor Hooten Foundation, Matthew Gfeller Foundation, Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation, Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation, Korey Stringer Institute among others). In the end, no matter the specific mission of the foundation, or how it got its start, the end goal for all these groups (and the countless others not mentioned here) is to reduce the number of sport-related deaths in our youth. Thinking about this mission and the recent story of Dayle Wood, along with the “saves” performed by ASA Ambassadors I am proud to have even a small role in educating coaches, parents and athletes alike in how to be better prepared to help young athletes in distress. I would like to think that the combined efforts of everyone working toward this goal has in some way prevented many tragedies and saved families and communities from the heartache that can result.
As I’ve read the paper over the last few months with fall sports seasons well under way I felt like I was still reading many more stories about young people who have left us way too soon and far fewer stories about individuals who had survived a potential tragedy. My initial reaction is: we still have much work to do. There are parents, coaches and administrators to educate, athletic trainers to advocate for and continued efforts needed to maintain youth sport safety as a priority in our local communities. This initial reaction is what keeps me going with A4IA and expanding its efforts, but I realized we may need to look a little closer to find the positive effects of the youth sports safety movement.
Further reflection caused me to realize that perhaps I’m reading more about tragedies and less about survivors because the opportunities for tragedy has decreased. What if the work being done isn’t only preparing providers to act appropriately in an emergency, but what if the potential for a tragedy is being reduced (and ultimately eliminated)? Perhaps the old saying, “an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure” is really true. The funny thing is, it is difficult to know how many emergencies were prevented since they never happened. Despite this I would argue preventing an emergency from happening is always the better course as opposed to an emergency you are ill equipped to manage. In the end, planning and preparation are your best keys to prevention. What have you done today to prevent an emergency with your child? Team? School? League? Are you prepared to prevent an emergency today? I hope there comes a day where everyone can answer “yes” with confidence.
In order to gather my thoughts for this post I took about thirty minutes and did an Internet search for young athletes who suffered a potentially fatal injury while participating in fall sports (August –September 2013) and I found one survival story in Dayle Wood, but found these tragedies:
September 20, 2013
Collapsed in HS cafeteria following a run around the school track. Had previously been cleared through an annual sports physical to compete on the basketball team. Cause of death currently unknown, believed to be SCA.
September 19, 2013
Cause of death to be determined and other details were not released. It is unclear whether her passing was sport-related at this time.
September 17, 2013
Lost consciousness on the sideline after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit during a football game.
September 16, 2013
Had an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to fire ant bites during a game.
September 14, 2013
Suffered exertional heat illness during wrestling practice, team training.
September 7, 2013
Collapsed while playing pickup basketball in a local gym. Family has history of “enlarged heart” (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and HCM was found to be cause of death.
September 5, 2013
Collapsed during a soccer game and it was determined that she suffered SCA.
August 30, 2013
Had just starting playing a pickup basketball game when he collapsed, cause of death unknown, but believed to be SCA.
August 27, 2013
Collapsed on the sideline after making a tackle. The exact cause of his death has yet to be determined.
August 16, 2013
Fractured his neck during a football scrimmage.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families, teammates and communities who are still dealing with the loss of these young people and hope someday soon there will be far fewer of these tragedies to report in the local news. I acknowledge that this list may be incomplete (as sometimes searching on the Internet is not an exact science) and so I send condolences to those communities who may be suffering from a loss that I’m unaware of. In the end, I look forward to continuing to work with all those like Beth and A4IA until athletes of all ages and all competitive levels can compete and play safely.
Submitted by Heather L. Clemons, MS, MBA, ATC