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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Vanderbilt: MPH Alumnus Offers Pioneering Model for Youth League Certification

Around the country, sports medicine specialists are responding to increased concerns about injury risk in youth sports with heightened focus on proven protocols that enforce safety while encouraging play.

In a major step, Tennessee’s general assembly plans to vote on codifying Safe Stars, the first safety rating system in the country for youth sports leagues. Developed by Dr. Alex Diamond, a sports medicine physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and the Tennessee Department of Health, Safe Stars has the buy-in of over 40 community partners across the state, including every medical society associated with children and sports in Tennessee and all but one professional sports team.

“Having a ‘star’ serves as evidence that safety is a top priority for their league and coaches, and that if there is an injury or other emergency, the response will be quick and appropriate,” Dr. Diamond said. “Making bronze level compliance the law will help ensure that no children are left out of this fundamental safety net.”

In designing the program, Dr. Diamond considered the onus on stakeholders, and sought and integrated their feedback. He piloted programs with coaches, league administrators and parents to get at what was most important, what was missing and what might be overly burdensome.

This meant being realistic about resources, Dr. Diamond said. “There are youth organizations that have numbers of administrative staff that rival those of some colleges. Then there are your backyard rec leagues which are wholly volunteer, and that is going to be a very different scenario.” To help groups of all sizes, the initiative directs participants to free resources to use in program development and training for all the Safe Stars criteria.

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