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Oct, 2019

Alabama Health Board Adopts Youth Coach Safety Training Rules

Article courtesy of Mike Cason | | March 7, 2019

Volunteer coaches for sports teams for children ages 14 and younger in Alabama will soon be required to complete a course to help prevent and respond to injuries. 

The Alabama State Board of Health adopted the training rules today. They take effect November 4. The Legislature passed a bill, called the Coach Safety Act, mandating the youth injury mitigation training. The bill made the Alabama Department of Public Health responsible for developing the rules. 

At the mornings State Board of Health meeting, officials noted that lawmakers did not include an enforcement mechanism. 

Dr, Beverly Jordan, a family and sports medicine physician in Enterprise and a member of the state board, said the training is important but said she's concerned about the level of participation if there is no enforcement. 

"We in the sports community over the past 15 to 20 years have seen an astronomical increase in the number of both overuse injuries and concussion related injuries in junior high, the 12- to 14-year-old athlete, that typically we used to see in professional athletes, because of inappropriate use of athletes starting at the age of 5," Jordan said. 

Jordan said she'd like to see a database, certificate of completion program or some other system for parents to check to see if their children's coachehave done the training. 

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the Department of Public Health will investigate the feasibility of developing a database or some other way to track participation. Harris said that might take another new rule or possibly new legislation. 

"It will be daunting, but obviously we want the rule to be working," Harris said. "We want it to work for people."

Harris said some jurisdictions and youth sports leagues have safety training requirements, but the rules adopted today are the first statewide mandate. 

The rules apply to "high-risk" athletic activities. That term includes, but is not limited to, football, basketball, baseball,volleyball, soccer, ice hockey and field hockey cheerleading and lacrosse.

Volunteer coaches are required to complete the training annually. The new rules set minimum course requirements. The courses must cover:

  • Emergency preparedness, planning and rehearsal for traumatic injuries. 
  • Concussions and head trauma. 
  • Heat and extreme weather related injury familiarization. 
  • Physical conditioning and training equipment usage. 
  • Heart defects and abnormalities leading to a single cardiac health death. 
The Alabama Department of Public Health will list available resources to meet the training requirement on the agency's website under Youth Athletic Training Resources.

The rule requires youth leagues and organizations to develop a coach safety program that meets the minimum requirements, Youth leagues must maintain records of course completion by individual coaches. 

"This is just making sure that folks who work with kids are aware of how to keep them safe," Harris said. "And the items that are included are things that your would think of, like concussions and head injuries. Making sure they're getting screened for cardiac issues that would put them at risk, making sure they're conditioned and so on."

"Then there's some thing you might not necessarily think about. Like just making sure emergency preparedness stuff is covered. What do you do if you have an event and you need to evacuate or you have injuries or multiple injuries, something like that. It's a wide variety of things that are covered."

The department held a hearing on the proposed rules in August and accepted public comments,. 

Jordan said it's important for children from an early age to receive coaching from adults with training in injury mitigation. 

"Alabama is a sports oriented state," Jordan said. "So, the younger we can start that, the better."

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