Coaching Guidelines For Safety

The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) offers the following guidelines for coaches to ensure a safe environment for high school athletes.

Establish an emergency action plan.
Every team should have a written emergency action plan, reviewed by their local Emergency Medical Service (EMS). Individual assignments and emergency equipment and supplies need to be included in the emergency action plan. If a certified athletic trainer is not employed by the school or sport league, qualified individuals need to be present to render care.

Keep an emergency medical authorization form on file.
This form, required for each athlete, gives parental permission for emergency medical care if it is required. It should include contact names, addresses, phone numbers and health insurance information. 
For more information, go to 
http://www.nata.org/statements/position/emergencyplanning.pdf.

Inspect, maintain and instruct the proper use of sports equipment.
• Sports equipment should be inspected regularly to assure it fits properly, is in good condition and meets national safety standards. 
• Parents and athletes need to be instructed in the proper use, maintenance and sanitation of the equipment and uniform. The wearing of approved protective equipment during all practices and games (such as shin pads, helmets, elbow and knee pads, safety goggles and other regulated items) should be reinforced. 
• Mouth guards should be worn while playing contact/collision sports such as football, ice hockey and basketball.

Check sports facilities on a regular basis.
• Debris, rocks, water and other hazards should be removed from the playing field, court or rink. 
• Before every practice and game, the sports facility needs to be inspected for safety. Ambulance accessibility must be considered for every venue.

Establish warm up/cool down flexibility regimen.
• Athletes should perform gentle warm up exercises before every workout. 
• Once warmed up, they should stretch using appropriate flexibility exercises. 
• A minimum 15 minute warm up period should occur before any game or practice. 
• A cool down period including stretching should occur after each workout and competition. 
• Coaches should limit workouts and practices to no more than two hours--less for children under the age of 14.

Establish weather related policies.
• Policies regarding inclement weather, including heat, cold and storms, should be established prior to the sports season and must be adhered to by all athletic participants and spectators. 
• Preparations to avoid lightning should be made, including a designated plan that identifies who will "make the call" to stop activity and move participants and spectators to a safe area. For more information, go to: http://www.nata.org/statements/position/lightning.pdf.

Create hydration plan.
• Encourage children to drink fluids before, during and after an exercise session. 
• Fluid breaks should be offered at least every 30-45 minutes (or more often during warmer conditions). 
• Require athletes to drink either water or a sports drink. A sports drink may provide better results if the activity lasts longer than 45-50 minutes or is intense. For more information, go to: 
http://www.nata.org/statements/position/fluidreplacement.pdf.

Have heat illness program in place 
• Prevent heat illnesses through medical screenings, acclimatization (exercising in the heat gradually over 10-14 days), conditioning, environmental monitoring, suitable practice adjustments, appropriate uniform selection and proper hydration. 
• Coaches must be able to recognize the symptoms of a heat illness, know how to treat the minor conditions and know when to notify EMS for more serious illnesses. 
• In the event of a heat stroke, a method to rapidly cool the athlete must be readily available. 
For more information, go to: 
http://www.nata.org/consumer/docs/parentandcoachesguide.pdf 
http://www.nata.org/statements/position/exertionalheatillness.pdf.

Have well-stocked first aid kit available at all times.
• Every team should have a first aid kit stocked with supplies for wound management and injury care. Athletic tape, elastic wraps, gauze, bandages and antiseptic ointment should be included. 
• Ice for injury care should be readily available.