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Sports and Faith
By: Brandi Connolly

In the spirit of fellowship, many religious groups run recreation programs, host interfaith sports leagues or have an affiliated school sports program. All of these are opportunities for the religious group to foster spiritual growth among youth through sports.
According to FAITH, the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust and Harmony, participation in sports activities has multiple advantages. It allows an organization to teach life principals that build the spirit…. those of teamwork, trust, planning, health and friendship.
But while growing the spiritual being of the child, is it acceptable to ignore the physical being? With the headlines today of concussions, ACL tears and the long-term impact that physical injury in sport can have on a young athletes body, it is time for sports organizers to react.
In our youth, it was acceptable to play sports on painted concrete or asphalt. Scraped knees, broken bones and an occasional concussion were just facts of life. But today it doesn't need to be that way. Today there are numerous advancement in sports technology that allow sports directors to better protect the physical being, and one of the easiest to consider is that of the facility.
Playground surfaces have long been investigated for fall impact, and today, the surfaces that athletes use are receiving similar attention. A study by PhD Martyn Shorten at BioMechanica, LLC, said that sports surface manufacturers must resolve multiple performance issues to protect athletes. The performance issues cited included reducing risk of head injury and lowering the frequency of lower extremity (knee) injuries while continuing to focus on ball bounce and roll.
What does this mean? It means that when looking to build or remodel a multi-purpose room or gymnasium, these are factors each group should weigh heavily. The performance characteristics of the sports flooring in the facility can actually reduce the risk of injury to the young athletes, therefore protecting their physical being.
The Journal of Athletic Training stated, "The potential for serious head impact injuries can be minimized by increasing the shock-absorbing capacity of the (sports) surface, decreasing the height from which the person falls, or both."
So if a facility is looking to increase the shock-absorbing characters of its sports flooring, what does it look for?  One standard is the head impact criterion (HIC). Independent HIC tests have shown that with concrete or vinyl tile over concrete that injury can occur from a fall at less than 1 inch and is likely to occur at a fall from less than 6 inches. Whereas by choosing a suspended or resilient sports flooring option like wood, rubber or modular flooring, you can greatly reduce the risk of injury from a fall.

For example, a study by Sport Court showed their modular sports flooring, when placed on top of concrete, helps reduce the likelihood of head injury by increasing the distance to 26 inches. A separate study by the brand also showed that modular flooring can reduce shock on the lower extremities and reduce injury likelihood of knee injury.
Based on the scientific evidence, facility-purchasing decisions, such as sports flooring, can drastically impact an athlete's safety. Many sports surfacing companies can provide you with statistical data on their flooring systems to help a facility evaluate how to best reduce injury risk, improve sports performance and meet budget restrictions.
The question religious groups conducting outreach through sport now have to ask is…will we work to create a facility that protects young athletes physical being while growing their spiritual one?

Brandi Connolly is senior director of marketing and communications at Connor Sport Court International, www.connorsportcourt.com.

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