Of particular interest was the PEP program (Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance) developed by the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation in an effort to reduce ACL claims. (Visit smsmf.org for more information.) This program replaces the warmup most teams/players do at practices and before games. It was mentioned that the PEP program can be modified for U-12 players. To introduce this program, you should consider having a professional from the PEP program or orthopedist who believes in the technique give a talk to your coaches. It has been found to reduce ACL injuries.
Risk reduction for clubs/leagues continues to focus on concussions and their long-term effects on players. Most of the claims for concussions are currently medical claims (reimbursement for costs of medical care), but liability claims are on the horizon. This risk should be managed by both (1) liability insurance and (2) by coach and player education.
Liability insurance policies should be scrutinized carefully. Does the policy require coach education or certain headgear for coverage to be in effect? Does it specify that a player must sit out and be released for play by a medical doctor? Each coach and soccer organization (each stakeholder) must be aware of the terms of the policy and the risks involved in playing after a concussion (again, the effects of subsequent concussions are cumulative). If a claim goes to court, the first question the court will ask is, ‘Were you aware of the risk?’
Concussion claims occur from either player-to-player contact or goalpost contact.
Player-to-player contact brings up a discussion about baseline testing and release back to play. Baseline testing is still not mandatory in U.S. soccer, and so the primary responsibility for sitting a player out or putting the player back on the field falls on the coach. This puts much responsibility on the coach and almost as much on the referee!! A referee has the ability though to pull the player card.
Goalpost injuries can be reduced by prohibiting homemade goals, properly anchoring goals and warning players (with stickers or supervision) that it is dangerous to climb on the goalposts. One other mention was that the club/league must know who owns the goals. Liability for an accident will be put squarely on the owner. Even if the goals are donated to a city’s parks and rec division, a paperwork trail should be maintained.
Coaches should be reminded of their vulnerability in any one-on-one situation. They should keep professional barriers in place: team activities/buddy system/no small groups. Vulnerability also includes transporting players in a car (with the insurance coverage necessary for that activity).
And social networking today brings even more opportunity for lowering that professional barrier between coach and player. A coach should cover himself or herself by addressing every email/text/communication to both players and parents. And the web should be searched once in a while to see what info or photo of you, your team or your club is available to be seen by good guys or bad guys. Be vigilant.