WESTCHESTER, N.Y. – The state Education Department continues to change and improve its injury prevention guidelines, implemented by Westchester scholastic sports coaches and trainers as the local schools begin practices this week for the fall schedule.
"New York State has enacted some rules and guidelines such as heat index standards and the new concussion (rule) to help protect the players," White Plains High School athletic trainer Michael Mirabella said. "There is no equipment that will keep you injury free, but proper training and correct technique will reduce the risk for injury."
The state's heat index standards spell out the guidelines for when practices can be outdoors and at what temperatures. If the temperature is between 91-95 degrees, players may only practice in helmets (no pads). If temperatures rise above 96, practices may be moved indoors or postponed to a cooler part of the day or evening.
Among the most common injuries are muscle pulls, shin splints and tendinitis, as well as knee and ankle injuries, exertion, dehydration, skin infections and minor cuts and bruises.
"Many of the players don't do much over the summer, so they are most at risk," Mirabella said. "Those who work out with us all summer suffer fewer injuries. There will be injuries, but we can limit them with the proper training."
Coaches say ankle and knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate tears, are prevalent among soccer, lacrosse and football players, but concussions are the most unseen common ailment.
“We have our share of ankle injuries,” Gorton (Yonkers) football coach Dan Demotte said. “But we try our best to avoid them by teaching proper tackle techniques. And being aware of any contact to the players head. It is something we take very seriously.”
The state's Public High School Athletic Association's new concussion rule is a result of studies showing many concussions go undetected because players either don't report problems or symptoms went unnoticed. The rule requires that any player who experiences dizziness or headaches must see a doctor and be symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to the field.
"The (rule) also recommends (not mandatory) that athletes be pre-screened using a neurocognitive testing software such as Impact," Mirabella said. "White Plains High School has been following guidelines that are equal to or better than the (rule)."
Mirabella said many injuries can be prevented by simply using good weight training and other workouts. His players have experienced a 60 percent decrease in non-contact injuries by working the school's training program.
The state athletic association also has since 2002 required defibrillators and one trained operator to be on-site at every campus that participates in athletics. Greater protections are in place for modified and junior varsity athletes.
For more information on the safety guidelines, log on at www.nysphsaa.org/safety.