From the Athletic Trainer’s Table by Ted Hirschfeld
Having provided injury care for youth football the past 19 years, I found the new reality TV show “Friday Night Tykes” depicting youth football in Texas absolutely appalling! The show attempts to portray the “no pain-no gain”, “win at all costs” and “winning is everything” mentality. And sadly, it does a great job showing how that impacts the kids.
While some may see this as okay, nowhere on any of the fields is an athletic trainer or other healthcare professional. These kids are told to hit harder and encouraged to hit “so hard the other kid doesn’t want to get up”. Unfortunately, nobody is there to help the kids when they are so hurt they really can’t get up.
The coaches have the typical high school football coaching mentality. The only thing important to the coaches is winning. There is no attempt made to make sure the kids are having fun, nor teach proper and safe blocking and tackling techniques. In response to the extremely skewed football mentality of the show, the National Athletic Trainers Association responded by publishing an official statement on January 29, 2014:
Football is one of the nation’s most popular sports and a rite of passage for millions of young players, helping them grow physically, socially and mentally. As the founder of the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is concerned and disappointed that the Esquire Network is providing a platform for the blatant disregard for player safety displayed in its new program “Friday Night Tykes.”
When youth leagues do not have proper medical personnel such as an athletic trainer available at practices or games, it is incumbent that responsible adults assure the safety of these young athletes. There is no shortage of valuable information available; the NATA has guidelines on topics such as hydration, heat acclimatization, concussion and head down contact in football. The association also endorses USA Football’s Heads Up program as a top resource for parents and coaches to ensure our youngest athletes remain on the field, enjoying competition at its best.
I personally find it unconscionable that the producers of this show and management of the Esquire TV network would allow such a show to be aired with the current plot. This is especially true given the massive amount of attention that concussions are currently receiving in the media.
This show is even receiving criticism from our legislators. Brooklyn NY Councilman Steve Levin (in response to the “Friday Night Tykes”) proposed legislation that will require the presence of a qualified healthcare professional (doctor or athletic trainer) at every league game in the city, “including, but not limited to, the Public High School League (PSAL), Catholic High School League, and Pop Warner leagues.”
The legislation would require a doctor or athletic trainer to be present at ALL contact practices that occur on New York City property. If passed, the legislation would:
• Require the presence of a doctor or athletic trainer at all contact practices that occur on New York City property
• Require all NYC park department applications for games or practices affirm that a doctor or athletic trainer will be on premises for the entire duration of the event
• Require the attending doctor or athletic trainer to document that they were present
• Require all youth football leagues to submit to the department of health a report of all concussions and serious injuries sustained throughout the season
If this legislation is passed, it will be interesting to see either how the necessary funds are provided since this is not an inexpensive change.
Do I agree with the legislation being put forth? ABSOLUTELY!
Do I think it’s realistic in today’s healthcare climate with budget cuts? No, because I don’t believe it’s feasible for a doctor to be available for all such events and to pay athletic trainers would require major new sources of funding. . Even at the high school level, it is not uncommon for teams to lack an athletic trainer due to budget constraints.
The proposal itself would be great if it were financially feasible. However, in today’s economic climate, this type of legislation would place too much financial burden on the youth organizations and would probably cause many football organizations to cease operations.