Understanding Safety And Injury Prevention

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Athlete stretching muscles to prevent sports injuries

When it comes to athletics, coaches have a lot of roles to fill.  They teach the rules and techniques of a particular sport.  Good sportsmanship, teamwork, and personal responsibility are also qualities that coaches try to impress upon their athletes.  Another important role of the coach is prevention of injury and keeping their team members safe on the playing field.  This role comes with a lot of responsibility and even some risk.

Legalities of Sports Injuries

Coaches can be found partially liable if athletes are injured on the field or at play under their supervision.  Coaches can be taken to civil court for negligence, which includes the act of not paying attention, or paying very little attention, not giving necessary treatment or care, failing to take proper care due to indifference or carelessness, and failure to take or use appropriate action to prevent or care for an injury.  For these reasons, it is of utmost importance that coaches, for every sport, take every possible step to maintain the safety of the athletes in their care and prevent injuries.

Instruction of Proper Technique

In order to keep everyone safe on the field, and to maximize performance, the coach needs to instruct his or her athletes on the proper techniques of the sport.  No matter what the sport is, there are general techniques that need to be taught to decrease the likelihood that injury will occur.  When athletes are using the proper techniques, the performance will increase and athletes will be less prone to injuries.  Whether it is a training technique that is used by athletes from a variety of sports, or a technique specific to a certain sport, such as serving the ball in tennis, or dribbling the ball in basketball, all coaches need to be sure that their athletes have been instructed on proper sports and training techniques.


Each year thousands of student athletes are injured due to ill-fitting or unmaintained safety equipment.  The coach is also charged with making sure all athletes under his or her supervision have properly fitting safety equipment.  For some pieces of safety equipment, measurements and special orders may be necessary.  Equipment should also be well-maintained and replaced as needed.

Care of the Injured Athlete

Especially in the absence of an athletic trainer, the coach should have the knowledge and skills to care for all types of athletic injuries.  The coach should feel comfortable providing immediate and acute care and treatment.  However, the coach should be aware of and respect his or her limitations in this area and know when additional help is needed, such as referring to the physician or even calling an ambulance. The coach should always remember that the return of an injured athlete to the playing field is a decision to be made by the physician and parents.  It is not up to the coach.

Safety Certifications

It is also vitally important that the coach stay up to date with required and recommended safety certifications.  This includes First Aid, CPR, and AED trainings.  Additional trainings for coaches are provide by the American Red Cross Sports Safety Training program, the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, and the American Sports Education Program.

Proper Supervision

It is also a requirement of the coach to provide supervision.  The coach should be present at all practice times and games.  In the event that the coach cannot be present, a proper fill in, whether it be an assistant coach, substitute coach, or a qualified parent should be there in his or her place.  The coach should be aware of current weather conditions and field conditions.  He or she should make sure the athletes are well-hydrated and have properly functioning safety equipment.  The coach should also interact appropriately with parents.  Should an injury occur, accurate records need to be kept.  Emergency plans need to be in place.  All physician orders should be adhered to by the coach concerning any of his or her players.


Coaches need to be fully aware that the number one cause of athletic injuries across the board is doing too much too soon.  Conditioning and training should begin slowly and be regarded as a process.  Body tissues are able to adapt to change if the change is gradual.  Practices and games should begin with a warm-up routine.  This is to raise the body temperature, which optimizes performance and prevents injury. Warm-ups should consist of stretching exercises and running activities.  As skills of the athletes increase, the warm-up time will need to increase and can become more specific to their sport.  Stretching helps to increase flexibility and is a vital piece of injury prevention.  Warm-ups should include static stretching exercises held for 15-20 seconds each and performed for three to five times.  Coaches should ensure that athletes are not bouncing with their stretching exercises.

Involving Students and Parents

Coaches should take steps to explain safety and injury prevention to their athletes and the parents involved.  They should encourage any safety concerns be brought to their immediate attention to help keep all players safe.  Parents and their athletes should be aware of any emergency plans or what to do in the event of poor weather conditions.  Safety and injury prevention is truly a team effort in sports.

Coaching is not an easy task.  One of the most important jobs coaches have is keeping athletes safe and preventing injuries during practices and games.  Following these tips will help decrease injuries and give coaches peace of mind that they are doing all they can to keep their athletes safe and enjoying their sport.

Learn More

The Ohio University online Master’s in Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is the pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.