Student Well-Being

Survey: Many Coaches Misinformed About Youth Sports Safety Risks

By Bryan Toporek — April 25, 2012 2 min read
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Despite all the progress being made in terms of concussion prevention over the past few years, more than half of youth sports coaches still believe there’s an acceptable level of head contact a student-athlete can endure before suffering serious damage, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The survey, commissioned by Safe Kids Worldwide and Johnson & Johnson, was completed online earlier this year by 516 athletes ages 8 to 18 from a variety of sports, 750 parents, and 752 coaches.

Only 52 percent of coaches described themselves as “very knowledgeable/well-trained” when it comes to recognizing sports injuries, according to the survey, and four of every 10 coaches had gone through no type of sports safety training. More than eight in 10 coaches considered such knowledge “very” important, but 47 percent said that they had too many responsibilities and not enough time to focus on injury prevention.

Why’s that knowledge so critical? Nearly half (49 percent) of youth-sports injuries were treated by a coach or adult on site, according to the parents surveyed. Nearly a third (32 percent) of those injuries were severe enough to require either immediate medical treatment or a later visit to a doctor.

Both parents and children entrust coaches most with player safety, according to the survey. Seventy-five percent of the children surveyed said they relied most on their coach to keep them safe while playing sports, and 92 percent of parents said the same about their kids’ safety.

However, nearly half the coaches surveyed said they’d felt pressure, either from parents or children, to continue playing an injured young athlete. Of the 752 coaches surveyed, 39 percent said they’d been pressured by a parent before, and 20 percent had felt pressure from a child.

“We’re looking to coaches to keep our kids safe, yet some parents are pressuring them to play injured kids?” asked Kate Carr, president and chief executive officer of Safe Kids Worldwide, in an interview. “You can’t push kids too far. You have to give them time to recover.”

Three in 10 (31 percent) young athletes believed that “good players should keep playing their sport even if they are hurt, unless a coach or adult makes them stop.”

“That attitude of ‘play through it’ isn’t good for kids,” said Carr. “They need to let their bodies heal or else they’ll have lifelong injuries. They’ll never get to be Kobe Bryant because they’ll hurt themselves before they’re 15.”

Eighty-eight percent of the coaches surveyed said that they’ve experienced a player getting injured before, with cuts and scrapes as the most common ailment. Twenty-one percent of all coaches had a player break a bone while playing sports, and 16 percent coached a player who sustained a sports-related concussion.

Notably, of the types of training that coaches wish they had, concussion-prevention training ranked as the top priority (76 percent of coaches), with pre-participation physical exams and heat-illness prevention tied close behind at 73 percent. Nearly half of coaches cited cost as the top barrier to obtaining more training, and 53 percent wanted a free online training module made available to them.


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.