The summer is passing quickly. It is hard to believe that it has been two months since our 2019 annual national conference, and many of you will be conducting Fall Camp for various sports within 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.
The health and safety of your athletes is your primary duty and concern as a strength and conditioning coach, and the CSCCa has developed several resources and programs to ensure that member coaches are educated and updated regarding the latest developments in safe and effective strength and conditioning program design and implementation.
We are rapidly approaching the end of the current CEU cycle, which is July 31, 2019. The next CEU cycle will begin August 1, 2019, and will end July 31, 2022. In addition to the existing requirements, successful completion of a newly developed health and safety quiz will be part of the CEU requirements for SCCC certificants for the upcoming 3-year cycle. Stay tuned as more information regarding this requirement will be provided in the August edition of CSCCa Monthly.
A group of veteran strength and conditioning coaches led by MSCC and CSCCa Board Member Don Decker, developed guidelines and 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 from a Period of Inactivity, was published in the June edition of the NSCA’s Strength & Conditioning Journal. Please review this landmark document and make sure you are following these strategies to ensure the safe return to training of your athletes.
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.
Each July, a list of guidelines is provided to help ensure the safe and effective training of athletes. Please review them and contact the CSCCa National Office with any questions or concerns:
- 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. 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.
- 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 from a Period of 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 freshman 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 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. 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 which you are strongly encouraged to review: CSCCa Position Statement on Sickle Cell Trait in the Athlete
- 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 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.
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 and enjoy the remainder of the summer.
Dr. Chuck Stiggins
CSCCa Executive Director
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