Safety in Youth Sports: Parents Have Spoken, We Have Listened, Now it’s Time to Act

October 28, 2014  • Jim Whitehead, Guest Blogger

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) was a key contributor at this month’s Project Play Roundtable, “What Do Mothers Want from Youth Sports?” Hosted by the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program in partnership with ESPN, the roundtable brought together a diverse group of stakeholders in the area of safety in youth sports. 

Hearing directly from parents at the roundtable — and indirectly through ESPN survey results shared at the event — was both compelling and insightful. While supportive, and even passionate, about their children’s participation in youth sports, a number of concerns were also shared. To no one’s surprise, the risk of injury to young athletes is the largest concern. Children are their parents’ pride and joy. And while the joy of watching their kids have fun and compete in youth sports is unquestioned, their well-being is priority No. 1.  

That’s why more than 85 percent of these parents listed safety as the biggest concern. Concussions and other head injuries not only top the headlines these days, they top the list of fears among parents as well. In fact, one-quarter of the parents surveyed have considered keeping their children from playing a sport because of fears of a concussion or other head injury.

These sentiments by parents are a loud call to action for the health community at large to engage more fully with youth sports organizations, events, and participants. While much dialogue and work is underway in regard to concussions, additional and different measures need to be taken. Only through a large-scale mobilization and engagement between the medical community and those involved with youth sports will the risks become better understood, prevention rise, and treatment improve. In the end, a new level of safety, in both appearance and reality, will be enjoyed in youth sports.

As a global leader in exercise science and sports medicine, ACSM will continue to be at the forefront of these efforts to ensure the safety and treatment of athletes at all levels. We will continue to partner with the Aspen Institute Project Play initiative, which is dedicated to reimagining youth sports in America. Project Play will make a significant difference in youth sports by addressing safety concerns and concerns related to parents, coaches, and sportsmanship, as well as by renewing the joy and pure fun for all involved.

Stay tuned for more to come in February with the release of the Project Play report.

Jim Whitehead is the CEO and executive vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).