A father, an athlete, head coach of a select football powerhouse in North Texas, former D-I NCAA football player of The Miami Hurricanes, and Integrative Board Certified Pediatrician with expertise in biomedical solutions for acute and chronic disease, I have "boots on the ground" in the athletic and medical arena. This is not some CDC health official or medical official who has no idea or construct of where the "the athlete" is created and the "no-cost" attitude that many of us have to be great. For us in the elite athletic arena, we have dreams and aspirations of being great. We want to be that guy or girl to "make it" in the highest levels of competition.

And now my drive and motivation is for my own child, for the athletes that I coach and train, how do we do this correctly to prevent burnout, unnecessary and useless injury that takes away an elite athlete from being able to compete at a time of life when they can earn a living from their craft.

This is like the youth and amateur players association against all the money hungry business entrepreneurs who see the youth athlete as a dollar sign. All of the city leagues, the YMCA, the select leagues, the Nike and Under Armour camps , they all generate money on youth. Good or bad, that's a fact. So my job is to protect the interest of the child. Period. I could care less what academic medicine, the CDC or the NFL says, I know. I'm there. I see it. It's real for me.

Let's take last week as our 7th grade select 7 on 7 team which played in a state tournament with teams from all over Texas. These teams have played in several tournaments since January to qualify for this state finals tournament. It's a big thing. Youth from grades 3-11 were participating. The tournament was organized with medical personnel in attendance should there be any injury.

As I was in the heat of coaching, I noticed a child on another team with a knee injury. He was carted off the field. This tournament had professional trainers and medical personnel. Then a few plays later one of my players goes down with a collision to the head. He runs off the field and he is evaluated by the medical personnel. I am unable to assess him as I am the head coach on the field with my players. Though I am a physician, my responsibility is a coach on Saturdays and at practice. I am fortunate enough that my skill set benefits my players though.

As we complete the game without my injured player, I have parents from my team tell me that our injured player is cleared to play as he does not have a concussion.

Our next game is in an hour. We rest, hydrate, stretch and prepare. As we warm up, our injured player is not the same in warm ups. He's sluggish. He's slow in his wide receiver breaks. He's not the same athlete I know. I ask him if he wants to play. Here's the athlete in all of us. I know. I was there one time. "I'm fine coach. I can play. I'm good". No, you are out. Sit on the sideline. We lost the next game. Our injured player was a key player on offense and defense.

The coach in me wanted him on the field. But the father and physician in me said he's not making millions of dollars, he's not vying for a college scholarship, this is not the time to push this athlete. Whether he's just hurting from the collision or whether he had a concussion, who cares, he's not 100% in his movements and he's not himself, let's wait another day to play football.

As we drive home, I ask my injured player what did they do to you on the sideline to assess you? It was not the SCAT-3. There was no testing for vestibular function and minimal if any memory recall.

Even more disappointing, the medical personnel at the tournament don't have a baseline study on any of these kids. The parents don't have one and the coaches don't have one either.

So here's a simple way to advocate for your athlete, have him or her tested annually with a baseline SCAT-3 as kids change a lot with their neurological capability (i.e. They get smarter!) Parent or guardian, keep it on your phone. Send a copy to your athletes coach, trainer and league official if you play in a city or private league.

Make it known that if your child has or appears to have an injury to the head, someone with medical expertise can examine him or her and compare what your athletes exam was when healthy and after injury. And let's say this, if your athlete does well on the exam and passes the test with flying colors, then maybe we all can have peace and comfort knowing we have someone advocating for athletes. Because.... WE HAVE THE BASELINE TEST AND ITS ACCESSIBLE AT THE TIME OF INJURY!!!!

TeamSafe™ is getting us there.

Randy Naidoo M.D.

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