Parents converge on Capitol Hill to make youth sports safer

Parents are tackling Capitol Hill with the goal of making youth sports safer.

More than one hundred parents from across the nation converged on D.C., hoping to reverse some sobering numbers.

High school athletes suffer two million injuries every year. Last year, there were 33 deaths from youth sports.

At the "Youth Sports Safety Summit," the first ever national action plan for sports safety was drafted. Everyone at the meeting agreed too many lives have been lost on the field or court - lives that could have been saved.

"He's extremely tough. I thought he'll bounce back up, and that was not the case," said Beth Mallon of her son, Tommy.

It's been four years since Tommy's high school lacrosse game when horribly wrong. The then 17-year-old fractured the top of his spine and suffered a severe concussion after colliding with another player.

Beth, who founded Advocates for Injured Athletes, added, "His contact sport career ended. He was going to go on to play college lacrosse and that ended."

But what didn't end was his life.

Beth credits a certified athletic trainer with coming to Tommy's rescue.

"I can't even think about had she not been there what would have happened to him," Beth continued.

James Thornton, the president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, said, " Less than 50 percent of the high schools in the United States have access to an athletic trainer. Probably a number significantly less than that have one full-time."

Thornton's organization hosted the 4th Annual Youth Sports Safety Summit. The more than 100 organizations gathered want support on Capitol Hill for putting athletic trainers in every high school in America.

They also have other goals in mid.

"...knowing proper tackling techniques, recognizing the signs of a concussion. If you're a parent, even if you see a kid that's not your own stumbling a little bit, stand up," Lisa Gfeller added.

Lisa Gfeller is standing up so no family endures her same heartache.

Four years ago, her son, Matthew, took a bad hit to the helmet at the end of his first varsity football game.

"I just thought...he got his bell rung. He'll be fine. When I got out there and saw him, I knew it was much more serious," she recalled.

Matthew, her youngest of three children, never regained consciousness.

She now has a foundation in his memory and is dedicated to preventing, recognizing and treating head injuries in youth sports.

"I think that's what's helped us heal the most knowing that when the football team goes out, when the soccer teams go out that they have a lot more information than they did in 2008...,"Gfeller said. " and kids I really feel that they're safer now, so I feel that Matthew is our little angel that's still working."

Wednesday, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance will spend the day sharing its action plan with lawmakers. The organization isn't looking for federal funding. It just wants to raise awareness of the need for greater safety for young athletes.

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