5 Ways to Save Teen Athletes’ Lives


With high school sports starting up as summer winds down, new guidelines are designed to keep student athletes safe. (bedlamonbalticavenue/Flickr)

By Deborah Franklin, NPR

For all the benefits of exercise and teamwork to the heart and head, high school athletes still lead the nation in athletics-related deaths. And it doesn’t have to be that way, sports medicine specialists say.

Many student deaths from head and neck injuries, heat stroke, sudden heart trouble and exertion-related sickle cell crises can be prevented, according to a scrum of leading sports doctors, athletic trainers, research physiologists and high school administrators who have endorsed a detailed set of guidelines for keeping high school athletes safe.

Give student athletes several days to acclimatize at the start of every season.
“The idea was to create something that schools could almost use as a checklist,” says Douglas Casa, who helped shape the consensus guidelines published in the August issue of the Journal of Athletic Training. Casa, who led a similar effort to produce conditioning guidelines for college athletes in 2012, is a sports physiologist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Some of the key recommendations for high schools follow.

1. Have a certified athletic trainer available during games and practices. Roughly a third of public high schools and many private ones don’t do that, Casa tells Shots, and it’s a problem during emergencies. “It’s unbelievable,” he says, “that some of the same schools that insist on having a school nurse on hand to handle emergencies from 8 to 2 don’t have a medical professional onsite to make key decisions after school when students are exerting themselves in the heat or under other extreme conditions.” Continue reading