WHILE visiting the late coach Ralph Plaza at the hospital, I learned of another sports-related tragedy involving a high schooler. Beside the coach was a teen who was paralyzed from the neck down, the result of a cheerleading accident. That reminded me of a curious study I read about US sports involving kids, that cheerleading, not the full contact team sports, is one of the most dangerous.
I was reminded again of that study after hearing of a bill introduced in Congress that if passed, those under 18 will be barred from joining full contact martial arts-based sports like taekwondo, karatedo, wushu, muay thai, arnis, kick boxing, pencak silat and boxing.
The intent is noble, protecting kids from harm, but is this the right way to do this? Punishing them for picking up a sport and punishing organizations for offering sports competitions to kids?
Because if it is passed under its current version, leagues will pay up to P200,000 and face the threat of closure if they offer such competitions to kids. But I doubt that it would be because representatives of the martial arts organizations have been called for a hearing and I don’t think they’ll take this sitting down.
I’ve seen a few of these competitions, some involving kids, and what I noticed is that organizers put a premium on safety and I believe that’s because they know what’s involved. Also, most of the organizers went through the whole phase — competing as kids — so they know the risks and make sure there are no unnecessary risks.
They must know what they’re doing because the only fatality I’ve heard of in sports involved a boxer in a regional Department of Education meet but that was before the boxing NSA got involved.
As for the other competitions, well, I haven’t heard of anyone passing out or getting rushed to the hospitals. In fact, in all my years of covering multi-event meets, the real risk athletes face is on opening day, when they spend hours waiting for politicos to end their talks and yep, they do fall faint under the heat of the sun.
I hope that instead of barring them outright from joining competitions, this bill will instead set the minimum safety requirements for martial arts-based sports that will be followed all over the country, requirements that will include making sure the coaches and referees are duly licensed by the NSA.