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NATA Issues New Sports Health and Safety Best Practice Guidelines

Most support recommendations long advocated by MomsTEAM in 2006 book, International Safeguards for Children In Sport, and as part of SmartTeams program

The National Athletic Trainers' Association has issued best practice youth sports health safety guidelines.  Touted as the first of their kind, the guidelines, however, largely mirror best practice recommendations that MomsTEAM Institute has long advocated that independent sports programs adopt as part of a holistic approach to safety using a process spelled out in the International Safeguards for Children of Sports, which MTI played a part in developing as part of a 38-member global coalition of sports safety NGO's, and that is embodied in its SmartTeams program.

Here are the guidelines (with links to relevant MomsTEAM articles): 

  1. Emergency action plans (EAPs) should be put in place by all member organizations; provide templates and assistance in the development of EAPs.
  2. Provide an educational plan to train member organization leaders, who in turn inform member coaches about how to organize and conduct EAP training.
  3. If one is not already in place, develop a strategic plan to direct its member organizations toward resources for appropriate emergency equipment and medical services.
  4. Develop a training structure to provide education related to emergency health and safety best practices for all members, including but not limited to member leaders, member coaches and parents or guardians of member athletes.
  5. Make available for all members training modules or educational content on best practices related to emergency action plans; sudden cardiac arrestexertional heat stroke; catastrophic brain and neck injury; pre-existing medical conditions; environmental conditions and medical services. 
  6. Develop an educational training and certification reporting system for member organizations and member coaches related to all content in item 4.
  7. Create a reporting structure or system to monitor noncompliance as each member organization moves towards the health and safety best practice policies recommended in the document.

The NATA document includes comprehensive information on policy and procedure implementation recommendations. Highlights include:

Emergency Action Plans:

  1. Establish venue specific EAPs and review annually or as needed.
  2. Provide access to emergency equipment at each athletic venue as soon as possible following an emergency.
  3. Recommend training for member leaders and member coaches in first aid, CPR and use of AEDs. Training of officials, parents and athletes is also encouraged. Coaches should also be educated on emergency situations and factors that increase risk of catastrophic injury or sudden death.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest:

  1. Have in place a comprehensive cardiac emergency policy in accordance with NGB recommendations. Educate on a biannual basis at minimum, member leaders and coaches about proper steps for sudden cardiac arrest management.
  2. Recommend that athletes undergo cardiovascular screening before participating in sports.
  3. Recommend moving toward having an AED on-site and readily available within an appropriate amount of time for all organized events, or develop a strategic plan to reduce the time to AED application.

Catastrophic Brain and Neck Injuries:

  1. Have a comprehensive medical management plan and policy for athletes with a potentially serious head or neck injury, including concussion. Recommend the proper use, fitting and wear of protective equipment. 
  2. Educate member coaches, athletes, parents and other pertinent members regarding the plan and policy on a regular basis. Never permit coaches to return an athlete to play who is suspected of having a serious head or neck injury, or a concussion.
  3. Advise that the management of any athletes with head or neck injuries, including those who do not require emergency medical treatment, be directed by appropriate medical personnel, including athletic trainers

Exertional Heat Stroke:

1. Have a: 

2. Provide education for member leaders, coaches, athletes, parents and staff on a periodic basis.

Potentially Life Threatening Medical Conditions:

  1. Consider the importance of educating league leaders, coaches and parents about disclosing potentially threatening medical conditions (e.g. asthma, anaphylaxis, sickle cell trait, diabetes, epilepsy).
  2. Encourage parents or guardians to disclose member athletes' potentially life-threatening medical conditions.
  3. Parents or guardians of member athletes with potentially life-threatening conditions should provide their child with appropriate self-administering medication (e.g. inhaler, epinephrine injector) as indicated by the child's physician.


  1. Create and enforce a comprehensive lightning safety policy.
  2. Enforce the "when thunder roars go indoors" slogan supported by the National Weather Service: when an individual hears thunder, practice or competition should cease immediately and secure shelter should be found.
  3. Identify the nearest appropriate and safe shelters in the EAP.

Medical Services:

  1. Establish a plan to provide access to appropriate medical providers such as athletic trainers or other emergency providers for NGB-sponsored or sanctioned events and events at which NGB staff are present.
  2. Implement a plan to access appropriate and qualified medical providers, such as athletic trainers or other emergency providers, for activities including practices and competitions.

"As an independent youth sports safety organization and a leader in educating coaches, parents, athletes and health care providers for the last seventeen years, MomsTEAM Institute greatly appreciates that NATA, in its best health and sports safety guidelines, has largely validated what we have been saying for many years,"  said MTI Executive Director, Brooke de Lench.  She noted that she had made many of the recommendations in her 2006 book, Home Team Advantage, and, more recently, as part of MTI's SmartTeams program, and that the recommendations regarding process are more fully developed in the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, which MTI, as a member of a global coalition of 38 NGO's has developed over the past four years, and is now implementing worldwide.  "From my work in the youth sports trenches over the last seventeen years, I know that it is only by taking such a holistic approach to youth sports safety, one which involves all stakeholders as part of the safety team, can we work towards a safer sports experience for children, teens, and emerging adults," de Lench said.

Source: National Athletic Trainers' Association

Posted March 8, 2017; revised April 24, 2017