Sports safety: 10 questions to ask if you’re a parent of a youth athlete

The story was originally published in The Courier Journal with support from our 2022 Data Fellowship.

When Jordan McNair, an offensive lineman at the University of Maryland, collapsed from heat stroke during a 2018 football practice and later died, his father said up to that point, his questions about his kid's career were more focused on playing time.

"While Jordan was ... fighting for his life those two weeks from complications of a heat-related injury, Tonya and I couldn’t stop asking ourselves, as parents, what did we miss? What questions didn’t we ask to keep Jordan safe? If we didn’t know these questions, how many other parents don’t know what questions to ask?" Marty McNair wrote in his book: "Can My Child Play: The Questions We Should Have Asked."

There are many questions surrounding the health and safety of high school athletes.

Here are a few you can ask, no matter where you live:

  1. Who determines what sports/events get covered by an athletic trainer and which don't — and how is that determined?
  2. Who is the point person for emergency situations on the field? In the weight room?
  3. Who is the athletic trainer?
  4. What are the state’s health and safety laws for athletics?
  5. What do your venue-specific emergency action plans look like?
  6. Who was on the team that reviewed this venue-specific EAP, and when was it last reviewed?
  7. When was the last time the EAP was rehearsed, like a play is rehearsed?
  8. How many automated external defibrillators (AEDs) does the school have, and where are they located? Likewise, how many cold tubs does the school have, and where are they located?
  9. How are they accessible to athletes if an emergency happens after the school bell rings, and how far are they from the venue?
  10. What is the plan if my kid gets hurt, has to go to the hospital, and I'm not there?