COLUMN: OHSAA educating student athletes about dangers of painkillers


Fans assembled at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton this weekend to see the high school football state championships will be hoping for two outcomes from the games. They will be feverishly rooting for their school’s team to win — and for the players to compete without getting hurt.

Health and safety always have been a concern for players, parents and coaches. After all, 90 percent of student athletes report some type of sports injury. But today we recognize the health risks to our kids are not only on the field but also in the recovery process. In some cases, the gravest danger can come with the medicine prescribed to ease their pain.

On Nov. 15, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its National Health Statistics Report about emergency department visits for young people with sports injuries between 2010 and 2016. The report revealed that 24 percent of high school-aged patients treated for sports injuries were given or prescribed opioid painkillers. For young adults between 20 and 24, the percentage rose to 48 percent.

This concerns me because, as the report noted, “Opioid misuse and abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem among adolescents in the United States. Data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health indicate that older youth aged 18-25 are more likely to misuse prescription opioid pain relievers than any other group of people in the United States.”

The well-being of student athletes is the top priority of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. That is why this summer we joined the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance, the coalition of almost 100 organizations around the state who are committed to raising awareness about the opioid crisis through the Denial, OH campaign. A primary strategy for the Opioid Alliance is to provide information and resources to prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids.

One of the best ways to prevent addiction among student athletes is to prevent the need for prescription pain pills. And while getting hurt is always a potential consequence of playing hard, there are things we can do to reduce the likelihood of serious injury — and, thus, the necessity or likelihood of a painkiller prescription.

For instance, I believe every high school should have an athletic trainer who can be on-site to immediately treat an injury and, if possible, keep it from becoming more serious. However, of the 817 high schools that make up our association, only 390 of them have full-time trainers, and 160 Ohio schools don’t have even a part-time trainer. This is where parents and coaches play a pivotal role.

Parents and coaches need to be acutely aware of the possibility that their student-athlete could misuse prescription opioids. Parents and coaches must be ready to talk to kids about the risks of opioid use, and how to ensure student-athletes safely use opioids if prescribed.

If you attend the high school championship games in Canton, you will hear and see messages from the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance’s “Don’t Live in Denial, OH” campaign, which reminds us that this crisis can affect any of us, regardless of our neighborhood, our race, or our income tax bracket.

Last month, we sent every high school athletic director informative tools to help them address the opioid epidemic in their schools. We reminded them that the best thing parents and coaches can do is to discuss proper medication use with their kids — because talking to kids about drugs can reduce the risk of use by about 50%. We also reminded them to dispose of leftover prescription pills in the home and look out for potential signs of drug misuse.

When I reflect upon my own childhood, some of my fondest memories are my experience with school sports. I want today’s kids to enjoy those same memories. To ensure that they can do so, we must acknowledge — and confront — all the risks involved.

For more information on the opioid crisis and to get resources for talking with your student-athlete, visit

Snodgrass is executive director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association

AT Veidt promotes ‘Safety in Football Campaign’ at WHS


Wilmington High School is participating in the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association “Safety in Football Campaign.”

The program was launched to promote increased safety in football in the six states that comprise GLATA – Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio.

Wilmington High School’s athletic trainer Kelli Veidt initiated the program for Hurricane players through the Ohio Athletic Trainers Association.

“I wanted to participate in the campaign to bring awareness of the importance of having athletic trainers on the sidelines and at games and practices to help with injury prevention and care to all the athletes,” Veidt said.

It is the goal of the “Safety in Football Campaign” to help each and every football team identify ways in which they can lessen the risks of injury and keep the focus on the fun and camaraderie of football. During the 2015 football season, 13 high school and one youth football player died.

Veidt’s participation in this initiative began last week and continues through the weekend. Hurricane players have a small helmet sticker on the back of each helmet. The sticker represents the cumulative efforts of these schools and the OATA towards improving safety in youth football in the state of Ohio.

Football is one of the most popular sports among youth athletes, and it leads all other sports in the number of injuries sustained. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “in 2007, more than 920,000 athletes under the age of 18 were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics for football related injuries.” There are three times as many catastrophic football injuries among high school athletes as college athletes.

Interestingly, 62 percent of injuries occur during practices but across the country only 37 percent of secondary schools have a full-time athletic trainer on-site daily. This is why athletic trainers are such vital components of safe and successful football teams.

“Athletic trainers are multi-skilled health care professionals who provide preventative services, emergency and acute care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions,” according to a press release from the GLATA.

Athletic trainers are one of, if not the only healthcare professional who can successfully take an athlete from the point of injury and successfully take them through the entire recovery process.

All across the state of Ohio athletic trainers are providing their clinical skill and expertise each and every day to improve the overall health and safety of their athletes. According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the presence of athletic trainers in the secondary schools lowers overall injury rates, improves diagnosis and return-to-play decisions, and reduces the risk for recurrent injuries. In fact, the placement of athletic trainers in every secondary school that offers an athletic program is recommended by both the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.

To learn more about Safety in Football, visit To learn more about athletic trainers and their role in injury prevention and management at and