School sports programs focus on safety as participation in football dips

Spurred in part by fears about contact sports and concussions, state and national youth sports programs are pushing new strategies to protect student-athletes from injury. Those strategies include encourage athletes to participate in more than one sport and putting new rules in place to reduce contact between students and better respond to athletes who suffer concussions. Officials from the Michigan High School Athletic Association are among those advocating for students to play multiple sports. Advocates say that can reduce the chance of repetitive injuries. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 45 percent of all athletes specialize in just one sport.

Michigan State University's Clara Bell Smith Center is home to the university's academic support services for student-athletes.

Colleges battle reputation with academic programs for student-athletes

In October, after an eight-month investigation, the NCAA announced it would not punish the University of North Carolina for allowing some of its student-athletes to take fake classes. The case is among the most recent academic scandals in NCAA sports, adding fuel to the debate over whether colleges which part of being a student-athlete is betting emphasized: academics or sports.

The MSU men's basketball team had T-shirts made as part of their effort to add something positive to the national debate over race relations.

MSU men’s hoops joins national conversation

At Michigan State men’s basketball media day in early October, head coach Tom Izzo recognized the public debate raging in the country. “There are problems in society,” Izzo said. “The issues involving race equality (are) important to me for a lot of reasons: One, my own household. Two, my own team here.”

That statement came two months after the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, and with growing racial tensions across the country. At the time, the members of Izzo’s team did not know what they were going to do.

Q&A: WKAR’s Al Martin on ‘sticking to sports’

Athletes and the sports media have gotten criticism for not “sticking to sports,” instead letting social issues and discussion creep into the sports media. Al Martin, host of WKAR Radio’s Current Sports since April 2013, joined Spartan Newsroom reporter Zachary Swiecicki to talk about the issue. Very cool moment here as @MatthewAbdullah @RoJeSoFly and @MichaelLynnIII receive a Skype call from @Kaepernick7 for deciding to stand with Kaep and take a knee during the national anthem before football games at @lansingcatholic this season. Mad respect.
— Al Martin (@AlMartinWKAR) December 3, 2017

Martin has used social media, like Twitter, as well as his hourlong radio show to give his opinion on everything in and around the world of sports.

Female athletes battle body image portrayals in media

Michigan State University track and field athlete Denise Spann focuses a lot of time and energy on her body. That’s because she’s focused on trying to perform her best on the track, said Spann, a junior from Coconut Creek, Florida. Muscle structure and body weight can play a significant role in how an athlete performs.

But, Spann said, media portrayals of female athletes seem too focused almost entirely on how women look and not on how athletic they are. “Most of the time they just want to see a beautiful girl play a sport, because there’s a stigma in certain sports that you can’t be beautiful and be one of the best,” Spann said. “I think that the focus should be on the skill, because female athletes do work so hard to be good at their craft, only for it be overshadowed by the way they look, or how their body looks.”

Increased anxiety

Michigan State kinesiology professor Dan Gould studies sports psychology for all age levels of athletes and said having insecurities about your body can lead to increased anxiety and worry.

High school trainers focus on proper injury care

Marci Abraham, an athletic trainer at East Lansing High School, said coaching and training staffs have put a greater focus in the last two years on recognizing and reporting possible concussions and head injuries in high school sports. But concussions aren’t the only injuries trainers and coaches see. She said a majority of the injuries she’s seen have been ankle sprain/strains, thigh (quad, hamstring, and groin) strains, shin splints and back pain. Those injuries are common in all sports, Abraham said. She said athletic training staff try to injuries in many different ways. “We try to combat these and all injuries by encouraging all our athletes to take their warmup session at the beginning of practice seriously and focused, not to goof off during it,” she said.