Important Health And Safety Update From CSCCa Executive Director, Dr. Chuck Stiggins

Health and safety continues to be a top priority of the CSCCa and its member coaches. January and February can be a time during which athletes are at increased risk due to many athletes being away from training for an extended period of time due to the holiday break between school semesters. Consequently, this is an appropriate time to review important training considerations in preparation for various disruptions to athletes’ training, such as winter, spring, and summer breaks; time off due to injury or illness, etc. The CSCCa has taken a proactive role in promoting safe and effective strength and conditioning programs and has developed a variety of resources to help strength and conditioning coaches maximize the safety and effectiveness of their training programs. These resources were extremely helpful and timely this past year with the unprecedented and unexpected disruption of training due to school closures as a result of COVID-19.

2012 Inter-Association Task Force Best Practices Recommendations for Conditioning Sessions: Preventing Sudden Death in Sport by Addressing Strength and Conditioning Sessions

In 2012, CSCCa representatives participated in an Inter-Association Task Force which developed a Best Practices Recommendations for Conditioning Sessions document titled: “Preventing Sudden Death in Sport by Addressing Strength and Conditioning Sessions.”  This document provides valuable information that we strongly encourage all strength and conditioning coaches to review and implement into their programs, paying special attention to the section entitled Acclimatize Progressively for Utmost Safety.  This section addresses safe and appropriate work-to-rest ratios that should be utilized during transition periods: “including but not limited to return in January, after spring break, return in summer, and return after an injury.”  The CSCCa strongly endorses the Task Force recommendation that: “A 1:4 work-to-rest ratio (with greater rest permissible) when conducting serial activity of an intense nature… is a good starting place to emphasize recovery.”  Not providing an athlete with appropriate rest and recovery can place the individual at risk for serious injury at any time, but appropriate work-to-rest ratios are especially significant during transition periods.

July Issue of CSCCa Monthly—Important Health and Safety Reminders

Every summer the CSCCa National Office provides important health and safety reminders for coaches as many begin to prepare for fall camp with athletes returning to campus after being away for several weeks during the summer.  Most recently, this information was provided in the July 2020 issue of CSCCa Monthly. Again, this was especially relevant in 2020 as many athletes were returning to campus after an extremely longer than normal break.

2018 NCAA Sport Institute Official Message on Exertional Rhabdomyolysis

The NCAA periodically notifies the CSCCa National Office of relevant memos or statements by the organization dealing with athlete health and safety during strength and conditioning sessions, which the CSCCa then makes available to its member coaches.  One example was an official message from the NCAA Sport Science Institute three years ago regarding exertional rhabdomyolysis. This information was immediately forwarded by email to the entire CSCCa membership and was included in the February 2018 issue of CSCCa Monthly.

2019 CSCCa/NSCA Joint Consensus Document

Building upon these aforementioned guidelines, a CSCCa Committee was asked to go further by developing practical and specific guidelines for strength and conditioning coaches to ensure safe and effective reductions in volume, load, and/or intensity of strength and conditioning programs during transition periods.  The Committee, chaired by MSCC and CSCCa Board Member Don Decker, developed specific rules that can be applied to strength and conditioning programs during these transition periods for the safe reduction of workload during testing and training for three specific groups: current athletes in the program; athletes that are new to the program; and athletes that are returning from serious injuries and illnesses, such as exertional rhabdomyolysis and exertional heat illness. Dr. Tony Caterisano, who serves on the CSCCa Written Certification Committee, led a group of educators and researchers in developing this document and identifying and referencing the scientific literature that supports the rules and protocols outlined in the paper. These coaches and educators have provided important information regarding the pathophysiology, incidence, symptoms and treatment, as well as guidelines for the prevention of the three most relevant and potentially fatal conditions related to strength and conditioning: Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD); Exertional Heat Illness (EHI), and Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (ER).  To strengthen the impact of these guidelines, the NSCA was invited to participate in the development of this paper to make it a joint consensus document.  The paper was published in the June 2019 issue of the NSCA Strength and Conditioning Journal and is readily available to CSCCa members and others interested in protecting the health and safety of the student athlete.  It can be readily accessed from the homepage of the CSCCa website.

Coach Decker made a presentation for the 2020 Virtual CSCCa National Conference which reviewed the rules and protocols outlined in the Joint Consensus document, as well as how to incorporate them into your own strength and conditioning program. A video of this presentation, titled Living within the Boundaries, is included on the CSCCa website Educational Resources section under both “Protecting the Health & Safety of the Athlete” and “Conference Presentations”.  A Quick Start Guide was developed by Coach Decker and his staff at New Mexico State University to go along with the presentation.  If you would like to receive a copy of this manual, please contact the CSCCa National Office at and provide your name and mailing address.

2019 NCAA Interassociation Consensus Document

Also in the summer of 2019, the NCAA released an interassociation consensus document regarding the prevention of non-traumatic deaths during strength & conditioning training sessions.  The CSCCa is an endorsing organization of this document, and the CSCCa/NSCA Joint Consensus document goes hand-in-hand with the general guidelines and recommendations outlined in the NCAA Interassociation Consensus document.  The CSCCa/NSCA Joint Consensus document offers specific rules and formulas for strength and conditioning coaches to utilize during transition periods to safely and appropriately adjust volume, load, and/or intensity for various groups of athletes to implement the NCAA recommendation that “training and conditioning sessions should be appropriately calibrated and include limitations on total volume and intensity of activity.”  These formulas and specific calculations can be applied to individual programs without stifling the creativity and expertise of the strength and conditioning coach.  Within this document, safe, evidence-based boundaries have been established to prevent the athlete from experiencing too much, too soon while giving the strength and conditioning coach latitude regarding how to keep the program variables within a safe training zone for all athletes.

2021 CSCCa  National Conference Annual Health & Safety Presentation

Ron Courson, Head Athletic Trainer at the University of Georgia and member of the CSCCa Education Board, will be making a presentation during the 2021 CSCCa National Conference Annual Health & Safety presentation.  This will take place from on Thursday, May 6, from 2:50 to 3:45 p.m. in Ballroom A-C in the Fort Worth Convention Center. Please plan to attend this important conference presentation.

New CSCCa Health & Safety CEU Requirement

Another way the CSCCa is working to protect the health and safety of the athlete is through the development of a new health and safety CEU requirement regarding important exertion-related health concerns.  While most health related issues are primarily handled by the sports medicine staff, it is extremely important that strength and conditioning coaches have a basic, working knowledge of these exertion-related conditions—their signs and symptoms, and particularly how to avoid triggering their occurrence during strength and conditioning training sessions.  With this new requirement, every SCCC certificant is now required to pass a 35-question multiple-choice quiz with a minimum score of 80% (28 out of 35) once within each 3-year CEU cycle. Upon obtaining a passing score on the quiz, 3 CEUs are automatically applied to the individual’s account, and the health and safety requirement is marked as fulfilled for the current CEU cycle.  All CSCCa member coaches – whether or not they are SCCC certified, are strongly encouraged to complete the quiz and to review the study materials. Links to a variety of health and safety-related articles, as well as a comprehensive summation article, are provided on the CSCCa website. All strength and conditioning staffs are encouraged to study these health and safety resources and to use them as part of their staff’s professional development, but enough information is provided in the summation article to obtain a passing score on the quiz.

The quiz addresses the following areas:

  • Concussion
  • Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
  • Exertional Heat Illness
  • Respiratory Illness
  • Cardiovascular Illness
  • Sickle Cell Trait
  • Emergency Action Plans (EAPs)
  • CSCCa/NSCA Joint Consensus Guidelines and Recommendations


CSCCa Textbook, The Professional’s Guide to Strength & Conditioning

In October 2019 the CSCCa textbook, The Professional’s Guide to Strength & Conditioning, became available for purchase in a variety of both electronic and physical copy options, which are outlined on the CSCCa website.  This textbook is a great study tool for candidates preparing to sit for the CSCCa’s certification—Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC), and is a valuable resource and reference for all strength and conditioning coaches as it provides a wealth of important information on the design and implementation of safe and effective strength and conditioning programs.

CSCCa’s SCCC Certification Program and the Importance of NCCA Accredited Certification for S&C Coaches

The CSCCa’s  Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) Certification Program is accredited by the premier accrediting body, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the credentialing body for the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE). More information regarding the value of the NCCA accreditation, as well as the SCCC Certification process, can be found here.  An additional important safeguard includes ensuring that ALL practicing collegiate strength and conditioning coaches hold a NCCA accredited, comprehensive, strength and conditioning-specific certification.  This is the best way for institutions to protect the health and safety of their athletes during strength and conditioning activities.

Finally, it is the position of the CSCCa that all colleges and universities should review their athletic policies to ensure that a minimum of one full-time strength and conditioning coaching position is in place at their institution and that all full-time strength and conditioning positions are being filled with individuals who hold a NCCA-accredited, comprehensive, strength and conditioning-specific certification. Our athletes deserve nothing less.

As we enter another calendar year, which will include various athletic training cycles, please review with your strength and conditioning staffs this important health and safety information, along with the other linked resources referenced in this article.  Protecting the health and safety of our student athletes continues to be our number one priority.  Let’s all make it a goal to keep 2021 free of any exertion-related health issues during strength and conditioning training sessions!