Amid growing concern over safety in school sports across the state, after yet another student had to be air-lifted from the field during a football game last week, the state association in charge of school athletics says it isn’t tracking the most dangerous kinds of injuries to athletes, despite a years old promise to do so.
Just this season alone two players died after being injured in games. One of them, Riley Boatwright of Lexington, was just 13 years old.
“Riley didn't know when he got up that morning when he put his little shoes and his jeans on and ran to the bus that it was going to be his last day,” Riley’s sister Natalie said last week.
The Boatwright family is pushing to get ambulances at every junior high and high school.
Currently the Oklahoma Secondary School Athletic Association does not require an ambulance nor a medical professional to be present at sporting events although schools are required to have an emergency action plan.
Chief among sports injuries are concussions. According to 2014 recommendation, OSSAA members are supposed to have a framework to track concussions but in the last five years that hasn't happened, while students continued to get hurt.
“You got me there,” OSSAA Associate Director Mike Whaley said when asked why OSSAA isn’t tracking concussion rates. “Don't have that information, that data in front of us. Tracking concussions from the standpoint of are they reporting those to us? No, they're not reporting those to us.”
It’s not just football, according to new national numbers, almost every sport, boys and girls from volleyball to cross country running showed significant concussion rates. But in Oklahoma, concussions in those sports aren't tracked either.
OSSAA officials maintain safety is a top priority and efforts to curb concussions have improved despite concerns of potentially life-threatening injuries.
“As a parent or grandparent at this point, I would be willing to trade the risk minimization that's involved in that activity for the values and the things that I've gleaned from the game overall,” Whaley said.
Whaley added that ultimately parents should have better data to make decisions about their kids even though OSSAA is supposed to be collecting that data.
The issue has also caused outrage at the Capitol which according to sources may lead to new legislation in the coming session which starts in February.