New Youth Sports Safety Alliance calls for improved safety in school sports

POSTED: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 8:30pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 8:34pm

As the National Football League confronts a pending lawsuit and implements new safety precautions in response to growing concerns about the long term impact of concussions, parents are visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

They're pushing for better protection of the nation's youngest athletes as part of the Youth Safety Sports Alliance.

The alliance includes real people, parents and student athletes who have suffered real losses due to sports accidents.

They argue some of these accidents could have ended differently if the adults at the game had better training and resources.

Four years ago a hit during a lacrosse game nearly killed Tommy Mallon.

Tommy broke his neck, but the school athletic trainer on the field recognized the injury and protected his spine.

"I would have at least been a paraplegic, and possibly dead," Mallon says.

He's since recovered.

Tommy's mom, Beth, shared her story with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

"We had to carry the message that things went right - on that day - because this school was prepared," she says.

The Youth Safety Sports Alliance is pushing a new action plan.

It would require schools to create athletic health care programs and assure safe practice areas through regular inspections.

"It's about what's not being done and what needs to be done to provide a safe environment for our kids," says James Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers Association.

The Trainers Association estimates less than half of high schools have access to athletic training services.

Many parents don't realize the risks.

Lisa Gfeller admits she knew little about brain injuries before a football game tackle killed her son Matthew.

"After Matthew's accident, it was like our eyes were opened," she now says. "Who's going to protect them if we don't? I mean we are the adults."

Lisa hopes lessons from her son's tragedy will help keep other children safe.

The National Athletic Trainers Association counts at least 34 youth sports related fatalities last year.

Even more were injured.

The association says high school athletes suffer more than 2 million injuries a year.

  

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