Families play key role in keeping student athletes safe

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Two girls jump for the tip-off to begin their high school basketball game.

Adam Mackey

East Lansing’s Jaida Hampton attempts to tip the ball off to her team as the game begins against Marshall at East Lansing High School on Tuesday Nov 28.

Mid-Michigan school districts are seeing fluctuations in athletic-participation rates and injuries. A number of factors are at work.

John Johnson, director of broadcast properties at the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said “Michigan continues to decline in population, but athletic participation has not gone down as much as school populations and the state’s population.”

“Kids are playing more at a younger age,” said Greg Lattig, athletic director at Mason schools, said.

Lattig said that “we are seeing more and more specialization injuries in sports like baseball, soccer and even football.” Specialization occurs when athletes focus their full efforts on one sport.

As a result, “there has been an increased occurrence in lower-body injuries in athletes who play one sport year-round,” Johnson said. Lansing Sexton Athletic Director Chris Henderson said he has seen “constant rates of fractured/broken bones, but an increase in things such as sprains and ligament strains.”

Lattig used girls volleyball as an example. Michigan’s girls volleyball season was recently moved to the fall, so more girls are transitioning their winter athletics from basketball to club volleyball. That transition could be behind increased injuries to arm and knee joints and ligaments. 

“I didn’t see any ACL injuries in our athletics my first six or seven years in Mason, but there has been two or three each year since,” said Lattig.

Lattig also said that concussions are up. “We had eight last school year and are already at eight for 2017-18,” he said in November.

Sexton’s Henderson said “There is such a high awareness for concussions and it is important that most parents have a good understanding that injuries might occur,” said Henderson. “Being proactive, alert and cautious are important factors for athletic families.”

Tom Hunt said he has seen “the sensitivity of concussions increase off the charts” in his time as athletic director for East Lansing schools. “Concussions have become more diagnosed as a result of the state implementing rules on how many contact practices each team can have per week,” said Hunt.

This table shows the four sports with the most

Year Football Ice hockey Girls soccer Girls basketball
2015-16 49 38 30 29
2016-17 44 36 28 23
Percent change -10.2% -5.3% -6.67% -20.69%

Scott Casteele, athletic director at Waverly schools, said that a good relationships between healthcare providers and patients helps lay the groundwork for greater safety. “No system is ever perfect, but we have come a long way,” said Casteele.

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