Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

2024 Insurance Program Released for American Youth Football

The gold standard that is the envy of the competition

The American Youth Football and American Youth Cheer endorsed insurance provider, Sadler Sports Insurance, has released the new 2024 insurance program for teams /associations /conferences which will be applicable for all new and renewal enrollments with effective dates 6-30-2024 and later.

The 2024 program is, once again, the gold standard in youth football and cheer insurance with an unbeatable combination of low rates, broad custom coverages, and best-in-industry automation that allows instant online enrollment and issuance of proof of coverage documents and certificates for field owners. But that’s not all: the program also provides best-in-industry risk management resources to prevent injuries before they become claims and for compliance with various federal and state laws. In addition, 97% of our clients grade our customer service as “A”.  That’s important because at some point during the policy year, clients will have coverage questions, need to add additional teams, need assistance with risk management resources, or will need to issue a certificate with special wording.

Apply, pay, and print proof of coverage documents and certificates in as little as 10 minutes

Our advanced automation is so simple and fast that you can complete the entire insurance purchase transaction and print all your documents in as little as 10 minutes. Many competitors require the completion of forms and days of waiting just to get a quote. Then, once the quote is bound, it can take several days to get the proof of coverage documents and certificates for field owners. Or, they could charge $100 extra for next day rush delivery.

We have a new feature that allows the prior years information including the certificate holder list to be pre populated so that information does not need to be input again. This results in a huge time savings.

After the purchase, we provide our clients access to our website so that they can self-issue certificates for new field owners 24/7. It’s so easy and our clients love this benefit.

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Competitors withdraw from market or take major rate increases

Many of our competitors have taken major increases over the past several years due to sexual abuse/molestation and concussion litigation as well as other losses. However, our program remains stable with June 30, 2024 rates offered at an approximate 2% decrease. 

Child Abuse Risk Management Plan Required By Federal Law and Insurance Carrier

The federal Safe Sport Act applies to all sports organizations either directly or indirectly and requires mandatory reporting of a “suspicion” to law enforcement within 24 hours; written policies to make an incident less likely to occur; and mandatory education for both adult staff and minors on the different types or child abuse, how to prevent the sexual grooming process and how to report a suspicion.  Sadler provides a free child abuse risk management plan for your adoption that is Safe Sport Act compliant called Safe Sport Child Abuse And Other Misconduct Risk Management Plan.  

Furthermore, the $1M per occurrence Sex Abuse/Molestation coverage under the General Liability policy will be voided unless organizations have implemented a system to run criminal background checks, have written policies and procedures to make an incident less likely to occur, and have a written requirement to notify law enforcement in the event of suspicion. Our free Safe Sport compliant risk management plan will satisfy written requirements. See our insurance plan description for additional information.

What is being done to combat the risk of concussion/brain injury and related litigation?

Sadler Sports Insurance provides a sample Football/Cheer Concussion Awareness Risk Management Program that is strongly recommended for all teams/associations/conferences. This free program can be found under the risk management section of our AYF Insurance page. This program consolidates accepted risk management practices for easy board adoption and implementation. We recommend coaches complete the AYF coaching education program. Certification is required of head football and cheer coaches participating in AYF national championships. We also encourage coaches, volunteers and players to complete the NFHS tackling course. It is important for all teams/associations/conferences to thicken their shields by adopting and fully implementing a comprehensive concussion/brain injury risk management program. The future of our sports depends on this action and it’s the right thing to do to protect the kids.

Check out our new risk management reports

We developed the following risk management reports to keep our clients up to date in critical areas:

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Risk Management SCA is the leading cause of death for student athletes while exercising, administrators and coaches need to be prepared to take immediate life saving action.

New Sports Anti-Violence Risk Management Sports violence and related lawsuits against organizations is on the risks.Learn how to greatly reduce the risk with the use of zero tolerance policies, codes of conduct, and serious sanctions.

Guide To Preventing Heat Stroke Death In Youth Tackle Football This comprehensive awareness training article was produced as a result of a recent heat illness death.

New Safe Sport Act Applies To Most Amateur Sports Organizations This new federal act signed into law in February of 2018 increases the standard of care required to protect youth against child abuse, molestation, and other forms of misconduct.

Parade Float Risk Management For Sports Organizations Two of our largest claims have arisen out of parade float accidents where participants have fallen from floats and have been run over resulting in significant injuries. This article will help to reduce the risk of future parade float accidents.

Managing Charter Bus Risk For Sports Organizations This is a must read for any conference/association hiring a charter bus.

Sample AYF/AYC Risk Management Plan

Our recently updated Sample AYF/AYC Risk Management Plan pulls together all of our best risk management content just for youth football and cheer.  Be sure to adopt, implement, and distribute this critical plan or similar comprehensive plan. This plan is password protected and only available for current AYF/AYC insurance clients.

Be a part of groundbreaking injury studies

If you purchase your insurance through the endorsed insurance program, all Accident claims automatically become part of the database where our custom software analyzes the information to produce meaningful injury reports. This has led to groundbreaking studies on the comparison of injuries in age only vs age/weight categories and the incidence of concussions within AYF/AYC.

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AYF/AYC Member Benefits: Check out the list of impressive AYF/AYC membership benefits.


Please visit our webpage at or call us at 800-622-7370 if you have any questions.


Travel Ball: Pros, Cons, Injuries and Insurance



Travel ball rebounds from COVID

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth sports market in the United States was a $19 billion industry, according to a study by WinterGreen Research. Youth travel sports have rebounded from the impact of the pandemic. They now account for a significant segment of the market.

Youth sports travel teams are composed of athletes who play at an elite level in sports that include soccer, softball, baseball and lacrosse, among others. Teams travel long distances for games, tournaments and showcase events.

Along with offering a valuable learning and social experience for young athletes, travel sports provide a higher level of competition than participants might find locally. Children involved in youth travel sports also have more frequent opportunities to compete.

Parents of young athletes should consider the pros and cons of travel sports. Participation involves a significant investment of time, energy and money.


  • Travel sports events offer social benefits for athletes and their families
  • Opportunity to learn skills and understanding of the sport beyond what school and local recreation leagues provide
  • Increase in athlete’s self-esteem and confidence level, socially and athletically
  • Camaraderie with fellow travel sports participants and bonding time with family


  • Expense of participation including registration fees, lodging, meals, equipment, camps, private coaching
  • Performance pressure and anxiety – being part of an elite team brings higher expectations for the athlete 
  • Increased risk of injury – concussions, repetitive motion/overuse injuries, torn ligaments, heatstroke and broken bones, as well as accidents while traveling to and from events

Travel ball and injuries

According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 3.5 million injuries requiring medical treatment occur annually in youth sports.  Because participation in youth travel sports can increase the likelihood of overuse injuries, it is important to stay focused on prevention. 

At Sadler Sports Insurance, we track the injuries for many of our sports programs. As a general rule, our injury report statistics indicate a higher number of injuries during games versus practice and a higher incidence of injuries as age and skill levels increase.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) and the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) have partnered to help prevent youth sports injuries by creating the STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries program. Learn more about sports specific injuries here. 

Personal experience with travel soccer

As a parent with two daughters who played travel soccer for SC United FC, it was a very positive experience. I found that the organization was well managed and hired excellent coaches with the safety and well being of my daughters at heart. The association had excellent contractual transfer protection through waiver/release, concussion risk management, and child abuse risk management.

Both my wife and I as well as my daughters were able to form lifelong bonds with the other participants. Now that my youngest daughter has aged out and gone to college, I find myself missing the travel soccer experience.

Travel ball insurance

As experts in youth sports association insurance, Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance recognizes the risks travel sports organizations face. We provide many different insurance programs for travel ball in almost all sports with our instant online quote / pay / print and best in industry risk management resources to prevent the injury or lawsuits from ever becoming an insurance claim.

Almost all travel teams need the following insurance policies to protect the organization, directors, officers, coaches, volunteers, and athletic participants:


General Liability

Directors & Officers Liability





Youth Sports Misconduct Extends To Social Media

And includes cyberbullying

The excitement of a new school year brings enthusiasm for the beginning of many youth sports seasons. As competitions get underway, coaches, activity directors and athletic staff also may become aware of instances of bullying and cyberbullying.

Children’s sports team coaches and athletic staff may be surprised to learn that the fundamentals of sportsmanship now extend to participants’ online behavior.

In the past, emphasis has been on exercising good sportsmanship on the playing field or court. Today, participants can endanger themselves or their organization with sports misconduct while online.

Examples of cyberbullying violations

It is a violation of Safe Sport risk management programs if a staff member knows or should have known of bullying behavior, but takes no action to intervene. Athletic staff need training to recognize, address and prevent such behavior.

Youth sports misconduct includes using electronic communication against someone to:

  • Harass
  • Frighten
  • Intimidate
  • Humiliate
  • Threaten
  • Socially isolate

Prohibited cyberbullying behavior also includes attempts to diminish or exclude another participant physically, emotionally or sexually.

According to the most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities

State laws address cyberbullying

While there is no Federal law that specifically applies to cyberbullying, individual states have laws to protect people from bullying. Click here to see your state’s laws.

Often, it is not the staff, but other participants – such as parents or guardians – who perpetrate bullying. School sports and activity programs need to be aware that good sportsmanship applies, whether in the sport or activity itself, or online.

It is important to note that bullying does not include group or team behaviors to encourage a culture of team unity and/or harder training effort. To learn more about what constitutes bullying, see the Sadler Child Abuse Protection Program.

A participant or parent/guardian who participates in any act of bullying should be subject to appropriate disciplinary action including but not limited to suspension, permanent ban, and referral to law enforcement authorities.

League organizers, sports complex managers, board members, coaches, athletes, umpires and performers involved in youth sports face unique risks.

Types of cyberbullying lawsuits

As the ease of digital communication evolves, an environment conducive to cyberbullying flourishes. A single inappropriate post or action can put you and your organization at risk. At any moment, an accusation of negligence, abuse, neglect or misconduct can be alleged, along with a lawsuit alleging bodily injury, emotional distress, personal injury, or failure to follow your own rules and bylaws if you don’t take action to address a prohibited activity.

Protect Yourself

The best way to protect yourself is to formally adopt and implement a Child Abuse Protection Plan such as the one that we have customized for our clients. In addition, you should protect yourself and your organization with the purchase of both General Liability and Directors & Officers Liability insurance. Call Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance at (800) 622-7370 to learn more or click on “get quote” in the top navigation bar above to find the custom program which best fits your needs.


High School Contact Sports Not Connected to Brain Problems

To play or not to play?

Potential good news for those with brain injury concerns in contact sports. New research shows that any cognitive ailment present in youths who played contact sports was no more significant in those who did not play contact sports as they progressed into adulthood. The study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder captured the responses of 11,000 youths over a 14-year period.

According to the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, by the time the studied individuals reached their 20s and 30s, those who did play sports early on were actually less likely to see the effects of mental health problems.

The rate of youth football participation in America continues to decline amid the controversy surrounding chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This decline results in the public’s altered view toward professional football and football for all ages. UCB’s findings look specifically at youth sports participation.

The results of the UCB study 

Starting in 1994, UCB selected young athletes from grades 7 to 12 for the study. Researchers categorized the athletes based on their future athletic intentions. Some planned to play contact sports (26% of males specifically noted football) and some planned to participate in non-contact sports. Others did not plan to take part in sports at all.

Then, in 2008, those same participants were asked a series of questions relating to depression or attempted suicide. Dr. David lower rate of depressionBohr, of UCB’s Department of Integrative Physiology, stated that there was no significant difference among the groups in the study. The mental state of all participants appeared to be nearly the same. In fact, the participants who played football proved to have lower rates of depression from those in other groups in the study. Those who claimed they had no intention of playing sports in their youth had a 22% higher rate of depression, as they moved into early adulthood.

NFL vs. Youth 

It’s currently hard for many researchers, parents, and student-athletes to see the long-term benefits of playing football. A select group of individuals who have played in the NFL have suffered serious cognitive and neurological damage. Still, we can’t assume that the same level of injuries will result from participation in youth football. 

The researchers concluded that more research is necessary before conclusive results can be made.

Prior study reaches a similar conclusion

Another topical study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania gathered information from 3,000 male graduates in 1957. It compared those who played football against those who did not. Of course, drastic changes have been made to the sport since the 1950s. But even then no evidence could be found linking football to mental health problems.

Final thoughts

It is important to note that the designers of the study at the UCB did not collect certain information. It could be important to know which position the athletes played, how long they played, or whether or not they received a concussion at any point. More research needs conducted to account for these variables.

Playing football, as it relates to long-term mental stability, remains one of the most controversial public safety topics today. The ultimate goal of this and future studies is to provide enough evidence for sports participants to make a valid decision if they should or should not play.

Brain injury risk management is essential

It’s good news to see some positive studies to counteract all the sensationalized studies hyped by the media about the dangers of youth contact sports. At Sadler Sports Insurance, we constantly educate our clients on the risks of brain injury and provide brain injury/concussion risk management programs that can significantly reduce risks. Here are the links to our free programs that can be adopted and implemented:

Source: “STUDY: No link between youth contact sports and future adverse effects.”; National Alliance for Youth Sports; October 22, 2019.


AYF Releases Tackle Injuries Report

Deciphering the statistics

American Youth Football (AYF) is the largest youth football organization in the U.S. and represents a wide cross section of participants aged 5 to 15.  Between 2005-2018, AYF’s endorsed insurance provider, Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance, has collected information on 4,534 injuries.  Each injury was analyzed based on 20 different categories and data was input and reports were generated to illustrate the injuries occurring in each category.  Reports from the time periods 2005-2012 and 2013-2018 were compared to reveal trends and it was found that the results were surprisingly consistent.  Any significant trend changes will be noted under the category descriptions below.

AYF constantly reviews and monitors tYOUTH FOOTBALLhis information in an effort to better protect its participants. Should a particular area of concern come to light, more detailed reports can be run to determine if a problem exists that needs additional attention. For example, when concerns arose over the potential dangers of age-only vs. age/weight categories, a report was run that indicated that the risks of injuries in age-only weight categories was about the same as age/weight categories. As regards concussion concerns, AYF will track the frequency of concussions to total injuries over time to determine the impact of parent/player education, coach training on concussion recognition, return to play policies, and improved tackling techniques .

Due to the limitation of this study, it tends to understate minor injuries that were never reported and tends to overstate the more serious injuries that required medical treatment. However, it does represent a statistically significant overview of the frequency of injuries that occur within AYF and youth tackle football as a whole.

Below is a summary of the leading injury statistics by frequency in each category:

Absence From Play

3+ weeks 45%
1 – 3 weeks 20%
1-7 days 11%
Unknown 10%
Not specified 9%
None 5%
TOTAL 100%

Note that many of the less serious injuries were never reported as insurance claims. As a result this category tends to overstate the length of time of absence from play.

Activity While Injured

Running with ball 32%
Tackling 31%
Blocking 15%
Running without ball 6%
Shedding blocker 5%
Catching ball 3%
Passing 2%
Other 6%
TOTAL 100%

Body Part Injured

Knee 13%
Head/temple 12%
Wrist 11%
Forearm 10%
Ankle 8%
Shoulder/collarbone 8%
Finger/thumb 6%
Elbow 5%
Neck 4%
Back 3%
Hand 3%
Other 17%
TOTAL 100%

Note that head/temple as a percentage of total injuries increased from 10% (2005-2012) to 16% (2013-2018) due to the increased attention being given to concussions.

Injured Person

Football player 97%
Coach 1%
Other 2%
TOTAL 100%

Injury Type

Fracture 44%
Joint sprain/strain 14%
Concussion 12%
Bruise/contusion 9%
Dislocation 4%
Pulled muscle 2%
Dental 1%
Cut/scrape 1%
Other 13%
TOTAL 100%

Note that the percentage of fractures tends to be overstated since many of the less serious injuries (sprains, bruise/contusions,  cuts/scrapes, pulled muscles) are not serious enough to be reported as insurance claims.  Also note that concussions as a percentage of total injuries increased from 9% (2005-2012) to 16% (2013-2018).  The reason for this increase is because of the increased awareness, reporting, and treatment being sought for concussions.

Location On Field

On field 94%
Practice field 3%
Sidelines 1%
End zone 1%
Other 1%
TOTAL 100%

Injury Occurred During

Game 56%
Practice 40%
Other 4%
TOTAL 100%

A common misconception is that most injuries in youth tackle football occur during practice. The results clearly indicate that most occur during games. Furthermore, only 28% of concussions occur during practice.

Type Of Play

Offense 46%
Defense 37%
Kicking off 2%
Receiving kick off 2%
Other 13%
TOTAL 100%

Note that very few injuries occur during kickoff returns. Therefore, the  kickoff rule changes implemented by the NCAA and NFL to limit concussions during kickoffs would not be as beneficial in youth tackle football.

Position Played

Running back 24%
Defensive line 17%
Linebacker 12%
Offensive line 10%
Quarterback 9%
Secondary 8%
Receiver 5%
Kickoff returner 2%
Kickoff tackle 2%
Other 11%
TOTAL 100%


Tackled by player 28%
Tackling player 16%
Contact with ground 16%
Fell on/stepped on 15%
Collision with opponent 6%
Blocked by player 5%
Blocking player 5%
Collision with teammate 4%
Non contact 2%
Blocked from behind 1%
Other 2%
TOTAL 100%


AYF Study: 2005-17 Concussion Trends in Youth Tackle Football

Provides perspective for impact of education, getting head out of tackle, and practice restrictions

The latest American Youth Football (AYF) study on concussion trends reveals that education of administrators, coaches, parents, and players is having a positive impact on the identification of and more aggressive response to concussions. On the other hand, popular initiatives to remove the head from the tackle and practice contact restrictions may have a more limited role than portrayed by various groups due to the high percentage of concussions that would not be impacted by these measures. Nevertheless, these initiatives are important components of a broad based brain injury/concussion risk management program.

Updated statistics based on Accident insurance claims for 2005-17 seasons

AYF is the largest youth football organization in the U.S. and represents a wide cross section of players aged five to 15.  The data in this study is based on Accident insurance claims filed with the endorsed AYF insurance program through Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance. An injury questionnaire consisting of some 20 questions is completed by the authorized team official as a part of the claims filing process and the answers are input into a database. A variety of reports can be produced to drill down to answer specific questions about concussions. The study includes 4,478 injuries reported from 2005 through 2017 of which 533 are concussions. This study is a representative sample of concussion trends occurring not only in AYF, but in youth tackle football as a whole.

Concussions as a percentage of total injuries

What this tells us about the positive impact of concussion education

2017 15.55%
2016 17.38%
2015 13.80%
2014 16.03%
2013 16.48%
2012 16.34%
2011 11.53%
2010 7.73%
2009 8.20%
2008 6.39%
2007 5.86%
2006 3.83%
2005 6.72%
Total All Years 11.90%

Notice the spike in concussions reported in 2011 and continuing through 2017. This coincides with the media reports of the NFL class action lawsuit, other concussion related lawsuits, autopsies indicating CTE in deceased pro football players, and anecdotal stories of disabled pro athletes. This also coincides with the beginning of widespread and heavily publicized educational efforts on behalf of the Center for Disease Control and various football-sanctioning and governing bodies on concussion recognition, removal-from-play, medical response, and return-to-play protocols.

It appears that the media attention and educational efforts to train administrators, coaches, parents, and players are having a positive impact in that concussions are taken more seriously and reported more frequently than in past years. Suspected concussions are resulting in increased rates of emergency room and doctor office visits, and diagnosed concussions are resulting in more follow up care as pertains to return-to-play protocols. Overall, Accident insurance carriers are experiencing increased claims payouts for concussion care.

Concussion by situation (physical cause at point of contact)

What this tells us about initiatives to remove the head from the tackle and to limit contact at practice

Contact with ground 25%
Tackled by player 22%
Collision with opponent 17%
Tackling player 15%
Blocked by player 7%
Collision with teammate 6%
Blocking player 4%
Other 4%
Total 100%

The initiative to take the head out of contact as detailed by the Seahawks Tackling video or Heads Up Football (HUF) is very important, but not the magic silver bullet to solve the concussion problem in youth tackle football.

For argument’s sake, assuming that the initiative to remove the head from the tackle is 100% effective in reducing concussions (Datalys study by Kerr on HUF refutes this – see paragraph below), this would result in a reduction of concussions by 37% (sum of tackled by player 22% plus tackling player 15%). If heads-up blocking is added to this equation, that would result in a total reduction of 48% (add blocked by player 7% plus blocking player 4%). The other 52% of concussion claims that occur due to contact with ground, collision with opponent, collision with teammate, and other would not be touched by this initiative.

The above analysis assumes that HUF is 100% effective in reducing concussion claims arising from tackling and blocking. To the contrary, the Datalys study by Kerr in Table 2 indicates that HUF-only leagues have slightly higher concussion rates that non-HUF leagues. Let’s hope that future concussion studies with more participants reach a different conclusion.

On the other hand, the initiative to limit contact at practice would likely have a larger impact in reducing concussions among more categories of physical causes of loss, including contact with ground, collision with opponent, and collision with teammate.

Concussion by activity being performed


Tackling 34%
Running with ball 30%
Blocking 15%
Running w/out ball 6%
Shedding blocker 5%
Passing 3%
Catching ball 3%
Other 3%
Recovering fumble 1%
Total 100%

Concussion by event type (practice or game)

What this tells us about initiatives to remove the head from the tackle and to limit contact at practice

Game 67%
Practice 32%
Other 1%
Total 100%

Since most concussions occur during games and not practices, the initiative to limit contact at practice would only impact those 32% of concussions that occur during practice. With regard to the initiative to remove the head from the tackle, it’s easier to get the head out of the tackle in controlled practice drills as opposed to live action during games, and as a result, its effectiveness should be expected to be diminished as well.

Concussion by position played


Running back 20%
Defensive line 17%
Linebacker 15%
Quarterback 11%
Offensive line 9%
Secondary 9%
Receiver 4%
Other 4%
Practice drills 3%
Kickoff returner 3%
Kickoff blocker 2%
Kickoff tackler 2%
Punt tackler 1%
Total 100%


Concussion by type of play from perspective of injured participant


Offense 43%
Defense 43%
Other 5%
Receiving kickoff 4%
Other practice 2%
Kicking off 2%
Punting 1%
Total 100%

The kickoff accounts for 6% of total concussion injuries: 4% when receiving kickoffs plus 2% when kicking off. That statistic does not seem to be out of proportion with the total percentage of plays in a typical game that are kickoffs. Pop Warner banned kickoffs for ages 10 and under starting with the 2016 season due to perceived risks.  Based on our statistics, banning kickoffs would not appear to significantly reduce concussion rates.

Concussion and absence from play


2011-2017 2005-2010
1 to 3 Weeks 44% 46%
3+ Weeks 27% 15%
1 to 7 Days 10% 18%
Unknown/Not Answered 17% 14%
None 2% 7%
Total 100% 100%

The period from 2011 to 2017 shows increased absence from play, i.e. later return-to-play times, presumably due to following suggested return-to-play protocols. The 3+ weeks category shows a significant increase with significant decreases in the “1 to 7 Days” and “None” categories. This is further evidence that increased educational initiatives are having a positive impact on concussion treatment.

Concussion and weight of injured player compared to other players


About-average weight 79%
Below-average weight 11%
Above-average weight 6%
Other 2%
Significantly below-average weight 1%
Significantly above-average weight 1%
Total 100%

It appears that players of below-average weight are only slightly more susceptible to concussions than players in the other weight categories. Players classified as significantly below-average weight have the same percentage of concussions as players of significantly-above average weight.

Conclusions about concussions from the study of Accident insurance claims

The higher rates of concussion reporting and more aggressive medical care and return-to-play protocols seem to validate that concussion education is having a positive impact. Initiatives to get the head out of the tackle and to limit contact at practice, while not game changers in themselves, are important components of a broad based Concussion Awareness Risk Management Plan (Football and Cheer) as they have the potential to reduce a significant percentage of concussions and sub-concussive impacts. Our statistics indicate that practice restrictions may play a larger role than removing the head from the tackle. Additional studies with more participants are required before firm conclusions can be drawn on these concussion reducing initiatives.

Despite ESPN Article Claims, Insurance Will Not End Youth Football

Insurance Executive Speaks Out About Youth Tackle Football Insurance

John Sadler of Sadler Sports Insurance was interviewed by California Youth Football Alliance on Chain Crew Podcast entitled “Show # 2: Is Football Insurance Dying?” The topics covered include the current state of the insurance industry as it relates to youth tackle football, the ESPN article claiming that lack of insurance will end tackle football, what football leagues need to do to maintain their insurance, and which types of insurance policies are needed. Below is the interview script, which was conducted by Steve Famiano and Ron White of CYFA.

John Sadler introduction

I joined Sadler & Company Insurance after graduating from law school in 1986. I became president in 1989 and absolutely fell in love with our Dixie Baseball/Softball account. We used that as a springboard and received a number of referrals and quickly began to specialize in the sport and recreation insurance niche. We now insure over 30 national sports organizations, including American Youth Football, and over 15,000 local sports associations. In addition to insurance, our main specialty area is designing volunteer friendly risk management programs that are easy to implement, yet effective. You can find out all you need to know about what we offer in the way of my qualifications, insurance, and risk management services by visiting our website at

Please discuss the current state of the insurance industry as it relates to youth tackle football market.

Despite what you may have heard in the media, there are still a number of insurance carriers willing to write General Liability including brain injury coverage.

It is true that some carriers, such as Philadelphia and AIG, were hit with heavy losses in high-risk concussion sports, such as soccer and football, and decided to exclude all brain injury coverage in these sports.

But, there are five or more carriers freely writing the coverage with brain injury for youth tackle football, including Scottsdale, National Casualty, Atlantic Specialty and HCC, among others. Just do a Google search for youth tackle football insurance and you will get a lot of hits. And my agency will insure youth tackle football including brain injury all day long.Concussion detection

I recently had a discussion with a senior manager at one of the carriers that continues to write the coverage, and he said that they have no plans on pulling back and that they have not seen an uptick in brain injury claims over the past three years. He mentioned that they prevailed in all of the lawsuits and have not had to settle or pay an adverse jury verdict, but that legal defense has been expensive.

As far as Accident insurance goes, in youth tackle football, we find that brain injury claims do represent about 16% of all claims by frequency, but overall Accident claims are falling. And the average concussion claim is not particularly expensive and is usually less expensive than a broken arm, for example.

What are some recent and significant changes you have seen within the sport that has impacted the way insurance companies do business and their ability to offer products and services?

Clearly, the biggest issues right now that keeps the insurance carrier underwriters up at night are child abuse/molestation and brain injury. The carriers want to see proactive risk management on both.

The  carriers writing General Liability in the concussion-prone sports demand concussion risk management programs similar to what is required under state law and by governing bodies. These programs should key in on training for staff, parents, and players on the basics of concussions; how to recognize a concussion, mandatory removal from play, mandatory treatment, and gradual return-to-play protocols. They would also like to see specific training on how to remove the head from the tackle and practice contact restrictions. We provide a free brain injury risk management program that covers all of these elements for our football clients.

And these risk management programs have been successful in preventing second-impact syndrome lawsuits to a great degree. Now that second-impact syndrome has been contained, the activists are now turning their attention to CTE. And, I don’t think that the CTE issue is going to be concluded either way anytime soon. But the intelligent response to CTE is practice contact restrictions such as the ones advocated by your organization. The Datalys Study which was commissioned by USA Football, in my opinion, clearly showed that practice restrictions played an even larger role in reducing concussions than removing the head from the tackle.

The carriers that do provide brain injury coverage want to limit their overall risk. There are several ways to do this. Some carriers will put a separate, lower aggregate cap on brain injury lawsuits to reduce their maximum exposure from multiple lawsuits over an entire policy year. Others will only cover brain injury lawsuits where injury both occurs and evidences itself within a single policy year. This eliminates coverage for injuries such as CTE or other neurological conditions where symptoms may only occur years later.

Recently, with the publicity from USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar over sex abuse, the carriers have actually put brain injury on the back burner to child abuse. We also have the new federal Safe Sport Act which has upped the risk management requirements for preventing child abuse.

But, surprisingly, on our book of youth tackle football business we are not seeing many claims from either brain injury or child abuse.We’re seeing most of our claims dollars being paid out on routine spectator slips/trips/falls and on player injuries other than brain injury.

Two of our larger claims have actually been falls off of parade floats. You just never know where the claims are going to come from. Many of the larger claims come from outside of playing the sport itself.

We did have a large heat illness death claim which required us to update our heat illness risk management program. What we learned is that heat index is out and web bulb globe temperature is in as the new standard for decision making. And by the way, wet bulb meters cost over $100, but you can buy a $1.00 Weather FX smart phone app that provides a mathematical estimation of web bulb globe temperature. And youth tackle football teams must have cold-water immersion tubs on location. These don’t have to be expensive, they can be a Rubbermaid container or a kiddie pool.

So, what I’m saying is that there is plenty of traditional risk in youth tackle football outside of brain injury and the carriers have to collect a sufficient premium to pay for these traditional losses.

What are your thoughts on the recent ESPN insurance article and the way it characterized potential risk in the sport of football and the insurance industry?

My opinion is that the article is agenda driven and over dramatized.

I think that a lot of the media and some researchers need tackle football to be very, very dangerous because it is good for business. The media likes to tout the bad science studies that are either anecdotal, are based on small numbers, have selection bias, or are not peer reviewed. But of course, they ignore or downplay the science-based studies.

I disagree with the notion that lack of brain injury insurance will be the end of youth tackle football.

First of all, trying to connect the dots between the NFL’s insurance problems and how they may trickle down to youth football is ridiculous. Most of the article was about the NFL only having a single source for voluntary Workers Compensation, which, by the way, is no-fault insurance where the claimant does not even need to prove negligence. But they weren’t clear and acted like General Liability only had a single source as well. And I can tell you, youth tackle football does not purchase Workers Comp. We’ve already established that there are five or more carriers that are writing  General Liability with brain injury coverage for youth tackle football.

Second, there is no comparison between the risk of brain injury in pro football versus youth football. Pro football has an exponentially larger exposure to concussions and repeated brain impacts, and a significant percentage of NFL players have other lifestyle issues.

And even if the brain injury claims do end up being much worse than currently anticipated, and if all the carriers start to exclude brain injury, I still don’t think it is the end of youth tackle football, at least not on the local level.

It’s true that certain national organizations such as USA Football and Pop Warner could have problems operating without brain injury insurance. But, in my opinion, they’ve brought a lot of the problems on themselves by trying to reassure mothers in their marketing materials.  The pleadings in a recent class-action lawsuit in which both were involved allege overreaching statements about tackle football being safe, that they teach safe tackling, or that all the coaches are trained. In my opinion, it is a mistake to claim that any sport or activity is safe. It is better to acknowledge that the sport entails risks, but that the benefits outweigh the risks.

From the point of view of the local league, even if they lose brain injury, they will still be able to buy General Liability without brain injury coverage. That’s important because they at least carry Liability insurance which protects against piercing the corporate veil in a lawsuit and tapping into personal assets.

There are other sources of insurance that would be available.

The older league General Liability policies  that were in force, which included brain injury, would still respond to claims arising from past exposure to concussions or contact. As a AYF general liability insurancematter of fact, the aggregate limits from these annual policies can be stacked on top of each other, which could provide a huge funding source.

And the individual administrators and staff members can look towards their Homeowners Liability and Personal Umbrella policies. Most don’t have exclusions for being a volunteer in a sports league.

And there is incorporation, which can protect the personal assets of administrators and volunteers from their passive negligence, the federal Volunteer Protection Act and similar state acts which grant immunity to volunteers of nonprofit organizations except in cases of gross negligence, and waiver/release agreements, which can be strengthened to specifically address brain injury.

In addition, you could see state legislatures pass immunity legislation as many have done for skating rinks or ski slopes.

What I’ve learned is that attorneys don’t really want to go after association assets or personal assets. They want to go after insurance carrier assets. And if the insurance company assets are not available, and the feeding source is cut off, they may lose interest in litigation.

I can remember in the early 2000s, I insured a large block of builders. The insurance industry added a construction defect exclusion to the General Liability policies. I thought it would be the end for the builders as no one would operate without this insurance. I was wrong. It was a deterrent to litigation. Fifteen years later, only one client came out of pocket with business assets to pay for a claim.

Looking forward, what can youth tackle football organizations do to maintain insurance coverage at the best possible rates?

Youth tackle football needs to be more serious about implementing formal risk management programs. Insurance rates are a function of claims payouts and the best way to limit payouts is to concentrate on eliminating or reducing severity claims from brain injury, child abuse/molestation, heat illness, and from group transportation.

But the problem is that our volunteer administrators and coaches only have so much time. There are a lot of sources out there to get risk management training, but most require watching a lot of time-consuming videos that don’t cover all the severity risks. And I think we know if you make something too difficult or time consuming, it’s not going to happen.

That’s why at Sadler we developed fast, simple and effective, document-based risk Sports risk managementmanagement training on brain injury, child abuse/molestation, and general risk management awareness training on the other severity risks that arise from lack of supervision and instruction, facilities problems, equipment problems, improper sport injury care, and group transportation. An organization simply has to adopt, implement and then distribute our templates to its administrators and staff and get their wet or electronic signature that they have reviewed and will follow the policies.

Risk management doesn’t need to be complicated or include an onerous long checklist of items that must be addressed or else. It is simply a matter of raising awareness of risk, recognizing risk, and appropriately responding to risk.

Besides General Liability and Accident coverage, what other policies do you recommend for Youth Tackle football organization to carry and why?

First, it’s not enough just to have General Liability and Accident in place. You need policies with high limits, with dangerous policy exclusions removed, and that have some customized coverages added for the sports niche. A lot of the policies that are being sold in the sports niche are of inferior quality. For example, they may exclude abuse/molestation, brain injury, or punitive damages. Or they may not include coverage for non owned and hired auto liability. And those problems are just the tip of the iceberg. It is difficult for a layperson, such as a league administrator, to read a 100-page insurance policy to determine if they have quality insurance. We provide educational tools and checklists that make this process pretty easy. You can even require your agent to complete our checklist and this transfers all the work to that agent.

But other than Accident and General Liability, it is important to have a Directors & Officers Liability policy. It covers certain lawsuits that are not covered by General Liability. Examples are discrimination based on race, sex, age, or handicap; failure to follow your own rules or bylaws when making an administrative decision, and wrongful suspension or termination of league personnel or players.

There is also Crime insurance which protects against insider embezzlement or use of credit cards to pay personal expenses. It also covers outsider theft of money such as a grab and run of registration or gate receipts.

And finally, many leagues buy Equipment insurance to protect their sports equipment, field maintenance equipment, concession equipment, fences, light poles, and scoreboards against loss due to fire, wind, theft or vandalism.

Those are the big five policies, but some leagues that own buildings or autos or pay employees need other policies.


If you have any questions about risk management, you should first check out the risk management page at our website to find a large library of content including forms, articles, and risk management program templates. You can also ask a question on our web form.

Copyright 2019 Sadler & Company, Inc.  All Rights Reserved

Leading Causes of Sports Lawsuits: Improper Supervision & Instruction

Supervision: It’s more than just keeping an eye on things.

The need for amateur sports administrators to understand their legal responsibilities with regard to supervision and instruction can’t be stressed enough. In the arena of amateur sports, lack of supervision is the most common cause of action in lawsuits. Injuries resulting in these types of lawsuits are typically avoidable if proper supervision occurs. Below are the three most important reasons to stress supervision as a way to avoid legal liability.

  1. Injured people suffer and miss time away from playing the game, school, or work.
  2. If a serious injury occurs, negative media attention can have a significant impact on the success of your sports program.
  3. The loss record of your insurance program must be protected against serious losses to prevent future rate increases.

Supervision in the context of amateur sports is defined as overseeing the activities of the sports program. This includes recognizing potential hazards, implementing risk management measures, and monitoring for compliance. For our purposes, we break supervision down into two categories: general supervision and specific supervision.

General Supervision

The responsibility of general supervision falls on your risk management officer and other administrators (such as officers and board members). It is their duty to oversee the big picture of your risk management Instruction in amateur sportsprogram. They do this by instructing, training, and monitoring staff members on how to carry out their own duties of supervision.

Meeting the standard of care

The basic steps required to be taken under general supervision include appointing a risk management officer and adopting a written risk management plan. We offer templates on our risk management page to help you accomplish this task. Also important is selecting suitable staff and monitoring staff performance of their duties. This means screening staff with applications and background checks. Staff training or certification is key. We recommend seeking out a credible organization such the National Alliance for Youth Sports for such training. An integral part of any risk management plan is being able to document everything you’re doing. This certainly holds true for your policies and procedures regarding supervision.

Specific Supervision

Administrators should consider three basic questions regarding supervision.

  • What is the player to coach/trainer ratio?
  • In which area(s) are coaches/trainers trained and certified, if any?
  • Are policies in place regarding supervision, and if so is there accountability regarding current policy?

The liability risk of any sports program can be reduced greatly if the following guidelines regarding supervision are followed:

Rowdiness: Horseplay and roughhousing of participants and those on the sidelines ends in a great number of senseless and avoidable injuries in youth sports. Injuries can range from a player falling/jumping off bleachers to a teen athlete having an accident in the parking lot while showing off. Nonetheless, it is the coach’s responsibility to properly supervise players and keep them safe. Staff should be aware of this, recognize these activities, and put a stop to them using appropriate means. The first step in doing so is having an adequate number of coaches and staff members present and alert. Getting the buy-in from parents is also key to keeping such behavior to a minimum.

Supervisor-to-Participant Ratio: The ability to adequately observe, instruct, supervise and correct only occurs when an appropriate number of staff supervisors are present at an activity. Arrange ahead of time for sufficient team supervision during practices, games and extracurricular activities.

Supervisor Location: The staff supervisor should always be in close proximity to an activity. This means he or she should be able to personally observe, instruct, supervise and correct. This applies to sports activities and non-sports extracurricular activities, i.e. team outings, backyard cookouts, etc. One example of this type of situation is the drowning of a player who attended a team picnic. Another is children causing damage while climbing on a water fountain at an awards banquet.

Participants Size, Age, and Skill: Never mix participants of various sizes, ages, and skill levels. All too often we’ve seen injuries result when a younger team scrimmages an older team outside of age range. The sports organization should be restricting age range categories and prohibiting any play against outside competition if participants fall outside of these categories. Staff members of individual teams should not match players of different skill levels or sizes in dangerous drills. And staff should, of course, never personally injure participants during practice instruction.


Instruction goes hand-in-hand with supervision because the instructor is a supervisor. Many sports organization require formal training for their coaches through organizations such as the National Alliance For Youth Sports. The training covers general topics that are common to all coaches such as the psychological needs of youth and how to respond to injuries as well as a sport specific segment. Such training can also be required by state legislative law and by municipalities as a pre condition of being able to use the fields. Such formal programs may satisfy the legal requirement for instruction training. Again, following the guidelines below greatly reduces the risk of liability.

Sport-specific techniques

Administrators should require coaches to follow best-accepted practices for teaching sport-related techniques. Coaches should receive continuing education on the latest techniques on how to run a practice and how to teach technical skills.

Put particular emphasis on the more hazardous areas of the specific sport. For example, the position of the player’s head during a tackle is a fundamental area of instruction. Likewise, in baseball/softball, it’s critical that athletes are taught the proper method for avoiding a wild pitch or how to slide  into a base.

Review of Safety Rules and Procedures

The governing/sanctioning body or sports organization should require a pre-season a review by administrators and staff of any rule changes. Likewise, a review of rules and policies with players should take place before every season and a review of specific rules prior to every practice and game.


The vast majority of lawsuits filed against clients of Sadler sports and recreation insurance allege lack of supervision and instruction. The alleged negligence is both at the administrator level due to lack of planning/oversight and the staff level as well. In particular, we have seen a number of serious injuries and resulting lawsuits arise from mixing participants of different sizes, ages, and skill levels.

Latest on Youth Concussions from American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics just released an update on Sport-Related Concussions in Children and Adolescents. This 24-page report highlights the major developments in new concussion knowledge and treatment since the first report, which was published in 2010.

To follow are the points that I find to be of particular interest. Some the conclusions and actionable recommendations may be contrary to what is being disseminated by various bloggers and vendors of products related to concussions. But always remember that true science can be a very slow process and future studies may ultimately prove contrary results. If these topics are of interest, you should read the entire article for more information.

Concussions: Mechanical vs Chemical/Cellular Injury

There is no universally-accepted definition of a concussion and there are a wide range of symptoms which require individual management.

After a biomechanical injury to the brain due to either direct impact or whiplash effect, a cascade of chemical changes occur resulting in injury on a cellular level. Some of the medical terms for these are potassium efflux from neurons, increase in extracellular glutamate, upregulation of sodium-potassium ion pumps, depletion of intracellular injury reserves, and increased use of adenosine triphosphate and hyperglycolysis. All of these biochemical reactions result in decreased blood flow and increased energy demand which leads to an energy crisis.

In other words, concussions are a lot more complicated than just a bump to the head, making future research and studies necessary.

Rest After Concussions

After a concussion, an immediate reduction in physical and mental activity can be beneficial to recovery. However, prolonged restrictions of physical activities and delayed return to school can have negative effects on recovery and symptoms. A graduated return-to-play protocol should be followed under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Reporting of Concussions Over the Past Decade

Studies indicate that the reporting of youth concussions has increased dramatically over the last decade with increases ranging from 57% to 200%. This is likely caused by the increased overall awareness of coaches, participants, and parents due to media exposure and education initiatives.

Concussions in Girls vs Boys

Female athletes are more likely to report symptoms to an authority figure than male athletes, despite Concussions in Girls soccerboth having the same knowledge.

Studies indicate that concussion rates from highest to lowest for boys are as follows: American tackle football, lacrosse, ice hockey, and wrestling. For girls: soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and basketball.

Girls have higher concussion rates than boys in soccer and basketball.

The reasons that girls seem to be more susceptible are not entirely clear, but it has been suggested that it is due to weaker neck musculature and estrogen.

In school sports, for boys and girls combined, the following have the highest concussion rates: middle school tackle football, girls soccer, cheerleading, and girls basketball.

A study of youth tackle football for ages 8 to 12 indicates that the concussion rates are higher than in high school athletes and that 11 to 12 year olds have a nearly 2.5 increased risk as compared to 8 to 10 year olds.

Concussion incidence is higher in competition than in practice for males and females across nearly all sports.

Most Frequent Signs and Symptoms

Headache 86% to 96%
Dizziness 65% to 75%
Difficulty Concentrating 48% to 61%
Confusion 40% to 46%

Problems to Watch Out For in Post-concussion Diagnostic Tests

The most frequent sideline test used by athletic trainers is the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) and is available in following forms: Child SCAT 5 (ages 5 to 12) and SCAT 5 (ages 13+). These tests, which only take about 10 minutes to perform, are being constantly updated. They consist of observable signs of concussion, symptoms assessment, memory questions, neurological assessment, and balance assessment.

Symptoms can mimic pre-existing problems such as migraine, headache disorders, learning disorders, ADHD, mental health conditions, and sleep disorders. As a result, the examiner should be informed of any such condition.

Some sideline diagnostic assessment tools and checklists are not appropriate for children ages 5 to 12. Younger athletes perform worse on questions such as naming months or numbers in reverse. Concussions in youth sportsVariations are available for younger children such as the Child SCAT 5..

Tests that measure visual deficits, such as the King-Devick Test, show promise but not enough evidence from studies yet to recommend their inclusion in the SCAT.

While healthcare professionals find sideline assessment tests to be helpful, they are not to be used in isolation in diagnosing a concussion. Not enough studies exist at this time to recommend widespread use in children. Also, the value of sideline tests is minimized without a baseline test for comparison. See HitCheck for an example of an affordable sideline assessment app.

Are CAT Scans and MRIs Necessary? Which One Is Superior?

CAT scans and MRIs are critical when a severe intracranial injury or structural lesion (skull fracture or hemorrhage) is suspected, but they are not effective in diagnosing a concussion. Despite this, the use of neuroimaging increased 36% between 2006 and 2011.

Recent literature indicates that it is highly unlikely that significant intracranial hemorrhaging occurs after six hours without a deterioration in the level of consciousness. As a result, prescribing a CT without any deterioration of consciousness after six hours is unlikely to be helpful.

When neuroimaging is necessary, CT’s are more cost effective and can usually be arranged more quickly. However, children’s exposure to radiation may increase the risk of certain cancers over the long term. After the emergency period is over, MRIs are superior to CTs in detection of cerebral contusion, petechial hemorrhage, and white-matter injury.

Baseline Neurocognitive Testing

Studies conducted independently by developers of paper and online testing platforms have questioned the reliability of baseline tests from year to year. It is important for the reviewer who compares baseline to post- injury tests to understand modifiers that could alter results, such as depression, lack of sleep, failure to take ADHD medication, and athletes with musculoskeletal injuries.

The best environment for baseline and post-injury testing is a quiet, distraction-free environment, which can be very difficult to achieve for most schools and organizations.

Concerns about athlete “sandbagging” and intentionally under-performing on baseline tests are exaggerated as this can be detected.

Neurocognitive tests should not be used as the sole determining factor in return-to-play decisions.

Retirement After Multiple Concussions

The decision to retire an athlete after multiple concussions should not be tied to any specific number of concussions.

An athlete who has suffered multiple concussions should be referred to a specialist with expertise in this area for guidance.

Prevention of Concussions: What Can Be Proven By Studies

  • Mouth guards: After an initial 1954 study suggesting a connection between mouth guards and reduction of concussions, several larger studies refuted this assertion. Evidence of an advantage of custom mouth guards over non-custom remains inconclusive.
  • Helmets: Helmets were designed to reduce severe injuries such as skull fractures, subdural Football helmets and concussionshematomas, and brainstem contusion or hemorrhage. The goal of reduction of concussions has not proven to be productive. Several studies show no difference between several brands and models of helmets, both new and refurbished, in terms of severity of symptoms, frequency, and recovery time. Helmet improvements are not likely to ever be the solution to the concussion problem.
  • Aftermarket Helmet Attachments: No study has ever shown that aftermarket helmet attachments such as pads, shock absorbers, and sensors prevent or reduce the severity of concussions. The use of sensors to clinically diagnose or assess concussions cannot be supported at this time and do not have a role in decision making. See our article “Add-on Helmet Products.”
  • Other Headgear: Soccer headgear has not proven beneficial in the reduction of head-to-head or head-to-ball impact. Such headgear may actually increase the incidence of injury by encouraging more aggressive play.
  • Education: Education and awareness of concussions has proven effective in diagnosing, treating, and making return-to-play decisions. This finding is consistent with Sadler Sports Insurance injury data on concussion rates in youth baseball and football prior to 2012 and after 2012.
  • Biomarkers: Biomarkers have been investigated in playing a role in concussion evaluation. These include predisposition factors, delayed recovery, and increased catastrophic risk. These investigations are preliminary and none have advanced to use in a clinical setting.
  • Supplements: Numerous supplements have been investigated as to playing a role in preventing or in speeding up the recovery time from concussions. There are currently no studies in humans to support a benefit from supplements.
  • Neck Strengthening: Strengthening the cervical muscles and activating those muscles prior to impact has been found to reduce forces from head impact. Poor neck strength has been shown to correlate with the incidence of concussions. One study showed that each additional pound of neck strength resulted in a 5% reduction in concussions.
  • Rule Changes: Rule changes and enforcement of rules by officials may help to reduce the likelihood of concussions. Recent initiatives in youth sports look promising. These include elimination of checking in ice hockey and heading soccer in younger age groups, and reducing contact in football practice.

I hope you enjoyed my summary of this very informative article. At Sadler Sport Insurance, we have an excellent risk management library on the topic of concussion and brain injury risk management that you should check out.


Overhydration in Sports Can Have Deadly Consequences

Players must adequately hydrate, but overdoing it can be life threatening

College and high school football teams across the country are currently conditioning and practicing for the upcoming football season. And they’re doing it in the hottest weeks of the summer.

In 2017, University of Texas coach, Tom Herman,  assessed the hydration level of players, and their dedication to the team, based on the color of their urine. The color color-coded chart he developed labeled players with deep-yellow urine “selfish teammates.” Orange to brown-colored urine signified players as “bad guys.”

While I don’t advocate such shaming, the color chart is useful as a risk managementtool. We refer to the importance of hydration and a urine color chart referred to in our article “Guide To Preventing Heat Stroke Death In Youth Tackle Football.”

But apparently fanatical adherence by some has led to the dangerous practice of overhydration. This is also known as exercise-associated hyponatremia. While it’s important that players be mindful of staying hydrated, “hydration shaming” has filtered into high school sports.

Since 2014, two high school football players died during August football practice from overhydration. One died after drinking two gallons of water and two gallons of Gatorade following practice. Ironically, there is no documentation of any football player dying from dehydration. However, since 2014, seven succumbed fatally to heatstroke.

A delicate balance

Overhydration results from drinking too much water or sports drinks, which dilutes the level of salt in the blood. The body fills with more fluids than it can expel through perspiration or urination.  The result is a swelling of all the cells in the body.

Sadly, the symptoms of hyponatremia are similar to those of dehydration. Overhydration can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, and lead to coma and seizures. In addition to extreme thirst, dehydration can cause fatigue, dizziness and confusion.

Scientists know that the body self-regulates its water balance. All land mammals require water and have a thirst trigger hardwired into the brain that protects the balance between water and salt. When the trigger is ignored, dehydration occurs. Oversaturation of our thirst results in hyponatremia.

Proper hydration

Players must drink regularly throughout all physical activities, no matter the temperature. An athlete shouldn’t only rely on his or her sense of thirst to sufficiently maintain proper hydration.

  • Athletes should have a variety of fluids freely available and be free to drink whenever they feel thirsty.
  • Encourage athletes to drink 16 ozs. of fluid two hours before physical activity and to drink before, during and after practices and games.

The weather, the sport being played and the size of the athlete all determine how much one needs to drink. Tom Herman’s hydration chart (without the commentary) or similar,  is a good basic tool for assessing your athlete’s level of hydration.

Source: Tamara Hew-Butler. “Young athletes should stay hydrated, but too much water can be deadly.” 7 August 2018.