The summer is passing quickly. Hopefully, many of you have been able to return to campus and are working once again with your athletes following the long break due to COVID-19. Many of you will hopefully be conducting Fall Camp for various sports in the next few weeks.
Every strength and conditioning coach is encouraged to review and follow the recommendations in this article to ensure the health and safety of EVERY athlete during ALL strength and conditioning training sessions. These recommendations are more important than ever before due to the longer than normal break athletes experienced over the past few months.
As always, the health and safety of your athletes is your primary duty and concern as a strength and conditioning coach. As such, the CSCCa has developed several resources and programs to ensure that member coaches are kept updated regarding the latest developments in safe and effective strength and conditioning program design and implementation.
Health & Safety CEU Course
We are rapidly approaching the end of the first year of the current 3-year CEU cycle, which is July 31, 2020, and which will end July 31, 2022. As has been announced previously, successful completion of a newly developed health and safety quiz is now part of the CEU requirements for SCCC certificants to maintain SCCC certification. Additional information regarding this course is provided in the CEU Corner section of this newsletter. A list of several resources is provided on the course description page, and these resources are recommended for those who are interested in having access to additional study materials.
CSCCa and NSCA Joint Consensus Document
The CSCCa & NSCA Joint Consensus Guidelines for Transition Periods: Safe Return to Training following Inactivity provides extremely important guidelines for strength and conditioning coaches to ensure the safe return to training following the especially long break due to COVID-19. In the way of background regarding the development of this document, a group of veteran strength and conditioning coaches led by MSCC and CSCCa Board Member Don Decker, developed two protocols for safe return to training following periods of inactivity. A group of educators/researchers completed an extensive research of the literature to evaluate and support these guidelines, and the resulting joint document–the CSCCa & NSCA Joint Consensus Guidelines for Transition Periods: Safe Return to Training following Inactivity, was published in the June 2019 edition of the NSCA’s Strength & Conditioning Journal. Please become extremely familiar with this landmark document and make sure you are following these strategies to ensure the safe return to training of your athletes. The guidelines provide you with latitude to design and implement your program as you see fit while providing the upper limits for safe training.
Coach Decker and his committee have developed 3 charts which summarize the two Rules outlined in the document: the 50/30/20/10 and FIT Rules, but you are strongly encouraged to read the entire document.
For those of you who are participating in the 2020 Virtual CSCCa National Conference, the conference includes a valuable presentation by Coach Decker regarding implementation of the two protocols. You are strongly encouraged to watch and study this presentation. There are additional great presentations in the Virtual National Conference that will help you design safe and effective programs for your athletes. Participants in the virtual conference are provided access to all the presentations for a period of 3 months or until December 31, 2020, whichever comes first. It is not too late to purchase access to the virtual conference.
CSCCa COVID-19 Resource Page
The CSCCa has developed a COVID-19 Resource Page on the organization’s website with some extremely helpful information for strength and conditioning coaches as coaches and athletes return to college campuses in preparation for the upcoming competitive season. As a reminder, the two protocols outlined in the CSCCa and NSCA Joint Consensus Guidelines for Transition Periods: Safe Return to Training following Inactivity should be the basis for the design and implementation of all strength and conditioning programs as athletes return to campus to ensure athlete health and safety.
Multi-Organizational Recommendations for the Safe Return to Sports and Exercise during the COVID-19 Pandemic
The CSCCa was asked to participate in a group effort led by the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) to develop guidelines for the safe return to sports and exercise during COVID-19 for high school and collegiate athletic programs. Other participating organizations include the following: American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR), National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
The document addresses pre-partiipation evaluations, return to physical activity and conditioning, heat acclimatization, injury prevention and education of key stakeholders –for both high schools and colleges. Additional information regarding this collaborative document can be found in the CSCCa Newsroom on the CSCCa website, including a link to the press release and the document itself.
Additional Health & Safety Resources
The above information is provided to help you protect the health and safety of your athletes and to protect yourself, your program, and your university. One athlete death is too many. Be pro-active in ensuring the health and safety of every athlete during every aspect of your program. Each year the CSCCa National Conference features a health and safety presentation directly related to the strength and conditioning of athletes. These presentations are videotaped and provided on the CSCCa Website under “Educational Resources” and “Protecting the Health & Safety of the Athlete.” You and your entire strength and conditioning staff are strongly encouraged to review these presentations.
Other valuable health and safety-related articles and videos can be found in this section as well, including the 2019 NCAA Interassociation Recommendations: Preventing Catastrophic Injury and Death in College Athletes. The College Athletic Trainers Society (CATS) has recently developed a new resource. This video is designed to provide annual education and prevention strategies about catastrophic injuries for sport coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, primary athletics health care providers, athletes, and athletics administrators. The video can be viewed at the following links:
A Review of Important Health & Safety Considerations
Below is a list of guidelines for strength and conditioning coaches to consider to ensure the safe and effective training of their athletes. While you have seen them before, this is a great time to review them:
- Only hire strength and conditioning coaches with an NCCA accredited certification that is directly applicable to the strength and conditioning coaching profession—preferably the SCCC certification. All certifications are not equal. NCAA legislation became effective August 1, 2015, requiring all Division I strength and conditioning coaches to be certified by an accredited strength and conditioning certification program. The SCCC not only meets this NCAA requirement, having obtained the highly respected NCCA accreditation, but is considered by many to be the “gold standard” in certification for collegiate and professional-level strength and conditioning coaches with its 3-part program.
- Address appropriate training of the neck, shoulders, and upper back to help prevent concussions. A presentation was made by Greg Pyszczynski at the 2014 CSCCa National Conference, The Rigors & Demands of Sport Play: Concussion, which is available on the CSCCa website under “Educational Resources” and “Health & Safety.” We encourage you to review this important information.
- Do not use conditioning activities as punishment or discipline or to determine an athlete’s mental toughness or commitment to the program, as this could increase the risk of injury or sudden death. Strength and conditioning programs should only be utilized to improve and maximize athletic performance. Other appropriate disciplinary actions should be developed and implemented for athletes exhibiting unacceptable behavior or performance and to develop mental toughness.
- Training programs should be based upon the conditioning level of each athlete and should take into account any potential medical limitations or restrictions. KNOW your athletes!
- Transition periods in which the athlete has been away from training for an extended period of time require special consideration. A written, progressive program of increasing volume, intensity, mode, and duration should be instituted and documented. The CSCCa & NSCA Joint Consensus Guidelines for Transition Periods: Safe Return to Training following Inactivity provide specific protocols for strength and conditioning coaches to follow to ensure the health and safety of ALL athletes during transition periods—the time in which the majority of deaths and injuries during strength and conditioning sessions have occurred.
- Train the appropriate energy system(s) for each sport and allow sufficient time for recovery. A 1:4 work-to-rest ratio (with greater rest permissible) is recommended as a good starting point when conducting intense, serial activity during transition periods. This time period in which athletes will be returning to campus to prepare for Fall Camp would definitely qualify as a transitional period – a time during which athletes are especially susceptible to harm and injury. (For additional information regarding the safe implementation of appropriate work-to-rest ratios, please refer to page 2 of the Inter-Association Task Force Best Practices and Recommendations document: Acclimatize Progressively for Utmost Safety. Appropriate work-to-rest ratios are also addressed extensively in the CSCCa/NSCA Joint Consensus Document.)
- The training program of athletes who do not meet minimum conditioning standards should be adjusted accordingly to allow appropriate physiological adaptation. Conditioning programs should be phased in gradually and progressively to allow the athlete to properly acclimate to minimize health and safety risks.
- Incoming freshmen should be separated initially from returning players, or at the very least, provided a closely monitored, lower-intensity conditioning program to allow gradual physiological adaptation to occur if deemed necessary. This should also be applied to transfers and walk-ons, who may also be physically and mentally unprepared for the rigorous conditioning programs already in place for returning athletes. This practice will allow these athletes to safely reach the desired physical and mental level of conditioning while decreasing the likelihood of injury due to pushing beyond current physical and mental limitations.
- If ANY uncertainty exists regarding the pace of exercise progression for a specific athlete, the strength and conditioning coach is encouraged to work cooperatively with the University’s sports medicine staff to develop a safe and effective program for that athlete.
- You are strongly encouraged to make sure an athletic trainer is present during conditioning sessions as an additional precaution. This is mandated by the NCAA for all voluntary conditioning sessions, but is highly recommended during all conditioning sessions, especially during the months of August and January when athletes are at a higher risk of injury or death due to non-catastrophic injuries.
- Strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, and medical personnel should share in the responsibility of monitoring and protecting the athlete from the dangers of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and rhabdomyolysis, as well as other exertion-related medical problems and conditions. Any athlete observed to be experiencing undue distress should be immediately removed from the training environment, thoroughly evaluated by medical personnel, and given medical clearance before returning to the training session.
- Require notification in writing from medical personnel and athletic training staff of all health-related issues (sickle cell trait status, asthmatic and cardiac conditions, previous concussions, diabetes, history of exertional heat illness, etc., as well as any relevant medications and supplements being taken) that could impact the training of an athlete or increase the risk of exertion related illness. The strength and conditioning staff is strongly encouraged to meet with the athletic training staff at the beginning of each semester and training season (including prior to the start of Fall Camp) to discuss the health and safety concerns of at-risk athletes, including the sharing of pertinent medical information. The CSCCa has developed a position statement regarding the training of athletes with sickle cell trait: CSCCa Position Statement on Sickle Cell Trait in the Athlete. The CSCCa /NSCA Joint Consensus Document is an excellent resource regarding the impact these prior or existing health conditions can have on making an athlete more susceptible to exertion –related illnesses.
- All conditioning programs must appropriately manage all environmental risks by providing adequate hydration replenishment, sufficient recovery time, appropriate and gradual heat and altitude acclimatization, etc.
- An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) must be in place for every strength and conditioning venue, specific to the venue, sport, and circumstances. This plan should be developed by the sports medicine staff with the input of all concerned parties and approved by the head team physician. In addition, all strength and conditioning personnel must be completely familiar with the EAP and able to implement it quickly and efficiently as those first few minutes are critical! Consequently, the EAP should be reviewed and rehearsed adequately to ensure proper assignment and execution of ALL duties and responsibilities in the event the plan must be implemented.
- Maintain up-to-date certifications in First Aid, CPR, and AED and be ready and able to administer these skills quickly and competently. An athlete’s life may very well depend upon it!
- Always use good judgment and be prepared to defend and justify your program! Base your program design upon periodization concepts and other solid, scientific principles, and implement your program with the health and safety of the athlete as your primary concern. Maintain complete records documenting your program and your appropriate variations in volume, load, and intensity. In addition, the strength and conditioning coaching staff should record the first 2 weeks of training following periods of inactivity and submit documentation of all program variables, including volume, load, intensity, and recovery, to his or her university’s compliance officer and athletic administrator.
The CSCCa Board of Directors and I wish you the very best as you prepare for the upcoming school year and for the accompanying athletic competitions! The CSCCa is your organization and is dedicated to your success and professional development. Please contact the National Office with any questions or concerns regarding this and all other matters. Enjoy the remainder of the summer and stay healthy and safe as we continue to deal with the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.