Roanoke County youth coaches follow policy to protect athlete health

ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7)-- In Roanoke County, hundreds of kids are hitting the field to prepare for the fall sports season. While there's lots of fun to be had, a much more serious conversation is happening. Concussions are the topic, and Roanoke County Parks and Rec has a protocol in place to protect your athlete.

"They're not saying these things because they're trying to be over bearing. They're doing it because science tells us it's necessary," said David Tate, coach of the Glenvar Highlanders, a U12 girls soccer team with Roanoke County Parks & Rec.

The girls and Coach Tate kicked off their first practice this week and are eager to get the season started, but there's much more to this game than racking up wins.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons ruled female soccer players suffer the most concussions in high school sports.

"Made me think, wow, how much science has changed that they're actually coming down to us at the U12 level," Tate said.

This has led to headers being banned in U12 and under, and a safety measure with a catchy name.

"When in doubt, sit them out," Allen Hayes, the athletics supervisor with Roanoke County Parks & Rec, explains how it works.

"Gives coaches the ability to sit players out. It gives officials the ability to pull players off of a field or during an activity if they suspect a person has received some sort of trauma," Hayes said.

Parents, like Matthew Thompson, praised the league for looking out for their young athletes.

"If it gets a little crazy the ref is just going to slow it down a bit to prevent injuries, it's very good to have those rules and regulations in place," Thompson said.

"Bottom line is these are our children and we need to obviously do the things we can do as parents and coaches that they stay safe regardless," Tate said.

Officials with Roanoke County Parks & Rec said of their roughly 7,000 youth athletes in 2016, less than 10 concussions were recorded. That's in part, thanks to the "when in doubt, sit them out" protocol.