MANCHESTER, NH – While youth sports have long been cited as critical building blocks for kids – helping them to learn important skills and team building principles – there are still millions of student athletes treated each year for injuries sustained in games and in practices.
A look inside the numbers on an annual basis according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- High school age athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year
- More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.
- Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. On average the rate and severity of injury increases with a child’s age.
Sobering statistics, but thanks to a local non-profit – the Safe Sports Network located in Manchester – young athletes have been getting the help they need to stay safer on the court, field, track and ice for the past 30 years.
Founded in 1989 by James Vailas, M.D. (Medical Director of the Network) and Nick Vailas, an exercise physiologist and health care visionary, the Safe Sports Network (part of the NH Musculoskeletal Institute) seeks to promote a safe sporting environment for young athletes in the Granite State.
As the local sports landscape has changed over the decades, so too has the work of Safe Sports, says Executive Director Laura Decoster. “Our core mission is to support and engage with the youth athlete and their families to ensure a safe and positive experience. As such we’ve continually adapted to meet the needs of those we serve.”
On Wednesday, March 20, the Safe Sports Network will hold its annual Safe Sports Social. The fundraising event will feature Manchester native and former pro hockey player Hubie McDonough, and other guests. Guests will learn about the non-profit’s work over the decades, view news about key programs and get a glimpse into the organization’s future plans.
Decoster said that the Safe Sports Network takes a holistic approach to its work with programs and services ranging from walk-in clinics, to on-site athletic trainers at schools, to youth and parent training on injury awareness and prevention to supporting the field of sports medicine by providing internships. All are provided at zero cost to athletes and their families. On an annual basis, more than 6,000 athletes are served by the program.
“At the end of the day, beyond any individual accomplishments, sports participation has tremendous benefits for our children,” Decoster says. “When kids are engaged and active, they’re healthier and in many cases, by extension, their families are healthier as well. Beyond that, the skills and characteristics that sports teach-things like teamwork, self-confidence and how to win with grace and lose with dignity couldn’t be more important for success in life.”
“Jim and Nick (Vailas) and their brothers were all active as athletes and recognized the importance of sports in their lives. They wanted to make sure other kids had that same opportunity. Through the Safe Sports Network, we’re working every day to help support kids and remove any barriers to participation.” For instance, in the early days of the organization, Decoster said that Safe Sports organized free sports physicals and arranged transportation for inner city athletes who might not have otherwise been able to participate due to the cost of the exams.
Like most all non-profits, the Safe Sports Network relies upon donors, foundation grants, volunteers and sponsors to support its work. “Our supporters have been so important for our kids,” Decoster says. “Kids would not have the care they need without those donors and we are very grateful.”
The New Hampshire Orthopaedic Center is now in its seventh year as the major underwriter for the event. Find a complete list of event sponsors here. In addition to the program, the evening will include a cocktail hour, hors d’oeuvres and raffles.
The Safe Sports Network Social
Wednesday, March 20 at 5:15 p.m.
Derryfield Country Club
625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, NH
RSVP to Laura Decoster, firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more, please visit: www.safesportsnetwork.org
About NHMI/Safe Sports Network
NHMI/Safe Sports Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advancing knowledge in musculoskeletal care and sports medicine and to promoting and providing a safe sports environment for athletes. Young athletes from Greater Manchester receive free sports medicine services through its largest program, the Safe Sports Network. For more information, visit www.safesportsnetwork.org