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. In 2012, the CSCCa 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 article 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.
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 2018 issue of CSCCa Monthly. 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 a year 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.
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 transitional 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, has 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 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 is in the final stages in preparation for publication. Once the paper is published, this information will be made readily available to CSCCa members and others interested in protecting the health and safety of the student athlete. We are extremely appreciative of the work that Coach Decker and Dr. Caterisano and their respective Committees have completed to develop what we sincerely believe will be a landmark document for the strength and conditioning community and for the protection of the health and safety of the student athlete.
In the CSCCa’s ongoing efforts to provide important health and safety information to its member coaches, a Health and Safety presentation is offered at the organization’s annual national conference. All conference attendees are strongly encouraged to attend this presentation each year, which covers a variety of topics with direct relevance to the development and implementation of safe and appropriate strength and conditioning programs. These sessions are made available on the CSCCa website post-conference under Health and Safety to be utilized as an ongoing resource and reference.
Dr. Michael Waller, who serves on the CSCCa’s Written Certification Committee, will be moderating a panel of strength and conditioning coaches at the 2019 CSCCa Health and Safety Symposium. The panel will be discussing important issues such as: initial health screenings for athletes; reducing risk in first year athletes; and how to adjust programming for returning athletes. There will be specific discussion on preventing exertional rhabdomyolysis, programming for athlete(s) returning from exertional rhabdomyolysis, reducing risk of exertional heat illness, and approaches for post strength/conditioning recovery. The discussion will provide coaches with programming suggestions for at-risk environments and issues that should be part of their emergency action plan. Please plan to attend this important conference presentation.
Many of you may have read the recent article in Sporting News announcing that the NCAA will soon be releasing an interassociation consensus document dealing with the prevention of non-traumatic deaths during strength & conditioning training sessions. The CSCCa is an endorsing organization of this document. The paper that the CSCCa Committees have been working on will go hand-in-hand with the guidelines and recommendations in this NCAA interassociation consensus document and will offer specific rules for strength and conditioning coaches to implement in order to safely and appropriately adjust volume, load, and/or intensity for various groups of athletes during transition periods. Formulas and specific calculations are provided that can be applied to individual programs without stifling the creativity and expertise of the strength and conditioning coach. 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.
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 on the CSCCa Website. An additional important safeguard includes ensuring that ALL practicing collegiate strength and conditioning coaches hold an 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.