Menendez, Pascrell, Capps Re-Introduce Bill to Protect Children in Athletics

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), along with Reps. Lois Capps (CA-24) and Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), today announced the reintroduction of the Supporting Athletes, Families and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth (SAFE PLAY) Act, a bill that would promote the safety of young athletes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are nearly 30 million children participating in organized sports across the country. While sports are an important part of a healthy childhood, there has been a troubling increase in student athletes suffering from sports-related injuries, including concussions, heat stroke, and even sudden cardiac arrest.

Specifically, more than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year, and children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals.

To address this concerning trend, the SAFE PLAY Act would take a multipronged approach of research, community education, and federal support for school districts to help them adopt best practices to keep kids safe. These efforts will focus on several areas, such as heat exposure, CPR and AED training, concussion response, and energy drink consumption, to ensure children’s safety in athletics and on campus.

“Parents, teachers, coaches and players should know the best ways to ensure the safety and health of young athletes on and off the field,” said Sen. Menendez. “This bill will make sure our schools have the resources and information needed to properly respond in the event of an emergency during a game and to be able to identify the warning signs so these emergencies can be prevented before they even happen.”

“Many of us enjoyed watching the Super Bowl earlier this month, but it is important to remember that safety must always be a top priority in sports, especially for our children,” Capps said. “Teamwork, competition, and fitness are important lessons to teach our children, but they must also be taught in atmospheres where children can compete safely. This commonsense legislation would help protect our children, and I, along with Senator Menendez and Rep. Pascrell, am hopeful that this bill will advance quickly through the new Congress.”

“As we encourage our children to be healthy athletes, we must also do everything possible to protect them as they participate in sports,” said Pascrell, Co-founder and Co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “It’s imperative that our coaches, trainers, parents and athletes have the necessary tools to ensure the safety of our youngest athletes on the playing field.”

“Arroyo Grande High School has been very proactive regarding these issues,” said Dwight MacDonald, Arroyo Grande High Athletic Director. “The safety of our students and athletes is paramount.  Any Federal financial assistance in implementing additional safety educational programs and protocols for our teachers and coaches will help continue to ensure the safety of our student athletes.”

“As we celebrate National Heart Month in just a few days, I am thankful we have congressional champions like Senator Menendez and Reps. Capps and Pascrell in Washington who are helping to protect our children’s hearts during physical activities,” says Lisa Yue, founding executive director of the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation. “This legislation includes important provisions to help identify children with life-threatening heart conditions such as cardiomyopathy, which is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death among young athletes.”

“The National Athletic Trainers’ Association is proud to have worked with Sen. Menendez, Rep. Capps and Rep. Pascrell in the introduction of the Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth (SAFE PLAY) Act,” said NATA President Jim Thornton. “As the leading national organization representing athletic trainers and health professionals that are responsible for the prevention and treatment of injuries to athletes at all levels of sport and play, we applaud these members of Congress for their leadership on the introduction of this comprehensive legislation to protect youth athletes. We look forward to working with other members of Congress to build support for this important bill.”

Specifically, the SAFEPLAY Act would direct the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to:

  • Recommend guidelines for the development of emergency actions plans for student athletes
  • Report to Congress on the number of sports related fatalities and catastrophic injuries and their cause
  • Develop and disseminate information about the health risks associated with exposure to excessive heat and humidity, and how to avoid heat-related illness
  • Develop information on the ingredients used in energy drinks, potential side effects, and recommend guidelines for the safe consumption of energy drinks by students

The bill would also provide assistance for school districts to:

  • Develop and implement a standard plan for concussion safety and management and set up concussion management teams to respond to incidents on campus
  • Develop and implementing an excessive heat action plan to be used during all school-sponsored athletic activities that occur during periods of excessive heat and humidity.
  • Provide access to critical resources to teach students across the country the life-saving skills of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use automated external defibrillators (AED), efforts that are also included in an earlier Capps bill, the Teaching Children to Save Lives Act.