National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute launches in Washington, D.C.

September 15, 2011

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, announced today a new partnership with Sanford Health, an integrated health care system based in Fargo, N.D. and Sioux Falls, S.D. The partnership creates the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute, which will be the recognized national leader and advocate for developing, advancing and disseminating comprehensive research, education, recommendations, guidelines and policy to enhance the experience, development, health and safety of children and adolescents involved in sports and physical activity.

The need for the Institute is underscored by a new poll that shows 91 percent of Americans feel sports participation is important for children and adolescents, and 94 percent feel more needs to be done to ensure the health and safety of youth athletes. These concerns have been fueled by reports of heat illness, concussion, undiagnosed heart conditions and other issues affecting athletes of all ages.

The Institute will initially focus on four key areas:

• Mild traumatic brain injury/concussion;

• Heat illness and injury;

• Overuse/overload and injury risk; and

• Unique clinical conditions in youth athletic populations, such as Type 1 diabetes, eating disorders, sickle cell trait, etc.

A new website, www.nyshsi.org, will provide information, links and evidence-based resources for youth athletes, medical professionals and others involved in youth sports.

“The American College of Sports Medicine and Sanford Health are embarking on a partnership that holds great promise for our young athletes and those who work with and care for them, along with their parents and families,” said Thomas Best, M.D., Ph.D., past president of ACSM. “Our expertise and our shared objective of helping young athletes enjoy sports more safely have led to the birth of this institute that has unprecedented potential to improve the experience of our youth engaged in sport and physical activity. We look forward to a deep and beneficial collaboration for decades to come.”

The National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute will be under the guidance of a leadership board composed of recognized individuals from across the nation with extensive clinical and scientific expertise and passion for youth sports and the myriad health and safety challenges facing young athletes.

“There is no question our young people need to be active, and participating in youth sports is an important component to that activity. However, too many of these young athletes are doing too much, too fast – some even suffering serious, life-threatening and life-altering injuries. This new institute will support youth athletics while also creating guidelines to protect their health and safety,” said Michael F. Bergeron, Ph.D., FACSM. Bergeron, who serves as executive director of the new National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute, is also director of the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance at Sanford Health.

The public announcement on Capitol Hill today included representatives from both Sanford Health and ACSM along with South Dakota Senator John Thune and North Carolina Representative Mike McIntyre, both champions of youth sports and safety. Congressman McIntyre, who co-chairs the Youth Sports Caucus, will serve on the leadership board of the new institute.

The poll on sports participation and safety, conducted by Kelton Research between Aug. 24 and 29, has a 3.1 percent margin of error and a 95 percent confidence level.