CHSAA defends poor national ranking in sports safety

Colorado was ranked 51st in an examination of safety in high school sports of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but both the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) contested the results of the rankings released earlier this month.

The Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) at the University of Connecticut published the “2017 High School Sports Safety Policy Rankings” in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine and made the results available online. According to the institute’s website, the goal of the rankings are to assess the health and safety policies in high school sports as they relate to the leading causes of death for high school athletes — sudden cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke and sickle-cell related deaths.

The KSI broke its grading criteria into five equally weighted sections — sudden cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke, appropriate medical coverage and emergency preparedness. The highest possible score is 100. North Carolina scored the highest at 78.75 and Colorado received the lowest grade at 23.00.

KSI researchers gathered information on policies regarding the safety of high school athletes from each state’s public athletic association, legislators, and Department of Education that were in place prior to the 2016-17 school year. States received additional points if the policies in place were mandated by the state’s government, rather than encouraged or recommended.

CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said in a release that the association didn’t share information for the study and defended CHSAA’s focus on player safety.

“It is my understanding that, last year, the CHSAA chose not to submit or participate with the questionnaire involved with this ranking,” she said in a statement. “We respect all the work that the Korey Stringer Institute does to educate nationally on these areas, but it was not clear to our Association how these statistics and numbers would be used.

“Our Association has been at the forefront of sports medicine platforms and we would invite members of the Korey Stringer Institute, and anyone else in the sports medicine field, to attend our committee meetings, or visit our website, CHSAA.org, to see the comprehension of our safety outreach.”

The NFHS, the national body that oversees high school sports, strongly condemned the study, saying the KSI provides “an incomplete view.” Bruce Howard, the director of publications and communications for the NFHS, said in a release that the ranking of state associations on limited criteria is more harmful than helpful, labeling KSI as “judge and jury.”

“By ‘grading’ state high school associations based on a limited number of criteria, KSI has chosen to shine a light on certain areas, but it has left others in the dark,” Howard said. “Thus, the information provided today gave an incomplete view. The full picture is much more positive. In fact, the state high school associations, and their respective sports medicine committees, post guidelines, speak at seminars, give warnings and alerts, and otherwise promote the health and well-being of young people.

Certainly, there is room for improvement, and the American educational system will continue to be resource-challenged. Schools will need more funding, more defibrillators, more athletic trainers and more constructive legislation. With the assistance of everyone who cares about young athletes, including KSI, we can keep getting better.

He continued: “The NFHS and its 51 member state associations are disappointed that KSI is, in essence, criticizing many states in this area rather than continuing to work with these groups in a collaborative relationship. Protecting the health and safety of our nation’s high school student-athletes is an ongoing focus of all NFHS state associations. Following are some of the numerous initiatives undertaken by the NFHS in conjunction with its member state associations in the area of managing risk for the 7.9 million participants in high school sports.”

The KSI did not return calls for comment.


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