US Youth Soccer announced this week that it would launch a sport safety initiative that aims to create safe environments for children in youth soccer leagues, while using a data-driven approach to take on concussions and other types of injury.
At a time when safety is a front-of-mind issue in the sports world, the organizing body for youth soccer is putting it at the front of its agenda.
This week, US Youth Soccer, which is the largest youth sports body in the country, announced a new “safety first” initiative, complete with collaborations with the world of technology and medicine. The group will team with the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Center for SafeSport on educational resources, while working with technology partner InjureFree to launch a new software platform that will track medical incidents as they happen.
“The InjureFree platform reduces the associated administrative and logistical burdens and is a critical partner in establishing the gold standard for player health and safety for children as they participate in athletics in this country,” US Youth Soccer CEO Chris Moore said in a news release.
The organization’s moves come partly as a result of efforts to help its members comply with the Safe Sport Act, a law passed in February that requires youth athletic bodies to offer training about and promptly report incidents of sexual abuse—an issue front of mind for many given the U.S. Olympic Committee’s recent effort to decertify USA Gymnastics following the Larry Nassar scandal. US Youth Soccer is working with U.S. Center for SafeSport on this element, helping to make abuse-prevention education available to youth sports leagues and the families that take part.
But the efforts also touch upon risks that players face on the field that aren’t covered as part of the law, such as concussions, broken bones, and other injuries. The Mayo Clinic, which has a concussion program, is closely collaborating with the sporting body, which US Youth Soccer describes as “groundbreaking for this level of sports.”
Beyond being important from a safety perspective, the data-driven approach could help cut back on medical costs. According to one University of North Carolina analysis, youth sports injuries cost $5.4 billion annually.
And a more recent report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the Aspen Institute shows youth sports participation is dropping: In 2017, less than a quarter of children regularly took part in high-calorie-burning sports, compared to 28.7 percent of kids in 2011. Another issue cited by the report was a lack of training among coaches—only 35 percent have training in core competencies, while only 36 percent are trained in safety, strategy, and injury prevention.