Focus On The Health And Safety Of Your Student-Athletes

By Dr. Chuck Stiggins, Former Executive Director, Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa)

A number of injuries and fatalities have occurred during conditioning drills and training sessions over the past decade. Some have accused the strength and conditioning coach of playing a contributory role in these deaths/injuries. They claim that too many strength and conditioning coaches do not know how to properly prescribe and implement safe and effective training programs, or that these coaches are being unduly influenced by their head sport coaches to implement training regimens that are harmful to the student athlete.

As a strength and conditioning coach, you must keep the health and safety of the athlete your primary concern as you develop and implement training programs designed to maximize athletic performance safely and effectively. You must also be prepared to defend your program/training regimen and philosophy, if necessary. Volume and intensity of training, as well as recovery periods, should be continually re-evaluated and based upon the individual athlete’s needs and abilities, especially taking into account athletes identified as having Sickle Cell Trait.

Always use good judgment and base your program design and implementation upon solid, scientific principles. In addition, actively promote open lines of communication between the various areas of expertise within the athletic department to make sure you have as much information as possible about each athlete, including his/her current health status/concerns, medications and supplements being taken, dietary habits/requirements, and more, that may affect the individual’s training and trainability. It is vital that everyone communicate effectively by sharing information and then work together to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the athlete.

In addition, an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) should be developed and implemented.  It is critical to ensure that immediate and appropriate action is taken during those first critical minutes when an athlete becomes ill or injured to provide the individual with the best chance of making a full recovery. Consequently, the EAP must be practiced regularly.

Clearly, information and knowledge are vital. Each year the CSCCa National Conference features presentations designed to provide coaches with proper guidelines for developing safe and effective training programs, as well as presentations regarding other important health and safety issues. This is just one of many reasons it is important to attend the national conference each year.

Dr. Chuck Stiggins, a former college football & track athlete and competitive weightlifter, served as the Executive Director of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa), a nationally recognized professional, educational organization established specifically for strength and conditioning coaches on the collegiate and professional levels. In addition to serving as the Executive Director of the CSCCa, Chuck was also the organization’s first President.