Utah high school athletics association ranked in bottom half nationally in player safety, study says

UHSAA director says report’s authors never contacted his organization; critics call survey incomplete<br>

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune A new survey of high school athletic associations and player safety places the Utah High School Activities Association 30th out of 51 nationally, but critics contend the study is incomplete.

When it comes to health and safety policies related to heat illness and trauma to the head and heart, the organization that oversees high school athletics in Utah ranks among the bottom half of state associations nationally, according to new rankings by the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut.

The not-for-profit organization, named after the Minnesota Vikings lineman who died of complications of heatstroke in 2001, graded the 51 members of the National Federation of State High School Associations based on their publicly available policies. Utah ranked 30th overall.

The institute’s review of the Utah High School Activities Association’s (UHSAA) policies found the group lacking when it came to matters of heat exhaustion, Heads Up Football training, access to automated external defibrillators, and emergency action plans.

UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff said his organization was not contacted by the Korey Stringer Institute and that he believed the report did not fairly represent the safety measures in place at Utah schools.

“I think we’re doing a great job,” Cuff said. “Our coaches are spectacular in the implementation of the things we have educated them to try to keep athletes safe, and we have a great track record as far as safety of students.”

NFSH officials, meanwhile, called the report “an incomplete measure” of its members’ efforts related to health and safety.

“By ‘grading’ state high school associations based on a limited number of criteria, KSI has chosen to shine a light on certain areas, but it has left others in the dark. Thus, the information provided today gave an incomplete view. The full picture is much more positive,” NFSH executive director Bob Gardner said in a statement released Tuesday.

However, Gardner added, there is certainly room for improvement, and the American educational system will continue to be resource-challenged. Schools will need more funding, more defibrillators, more athletic trainers and more constructive legislation. With the assistance of everyone who cares about young athletes, including KSI, we can keep getting better.”

North Carolina was ranked No. 1 overall by the Korey Stringer Institute. Colorado was ranked No. 51.