TRENTON – Acting to address the increased risk of opioid abuse among high school athletes, the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (“NJSIAA”) announced on Tuesday Feb. 19, a new partnership to educate student athletes on addiction risks associated with sports injuries and opioid use.
Starting next fall, prior to the start of a sports season, student athletes - and the parents of players under 18 - will be required to watch a video raising awareness that high school athletes face a higher risk of becoming addicted to prescription pain medication.
The educational initiative, approved this week by the executive committee of the NJSIAA, is a collaborative effort between the high school sports oversight organization and NJ CARES, which will produce the video with input from NJSIAA.
“We’re pleased to announce the NJSIAA as our latest ally in the fight to end New Jersey’s opioid crisis,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This partnership has opened a new front for our battle against addiction – high school athletic playing fields across the state. We look forward to working with the NJSIAA to protect young athletes and end this deadly epidemic.”
“Studies have shown that the prevalence of sports injuries put student athletes at a higher risk of opioid use and misuse,” said Sharon Joyce, Director of NJ CARES. “Our partnership with the NJSIAA will help raise awareness and educate students and parents on how to prevent sports injuries from leading young athletes down the path to addiction.”
“Data clearly demonstrates that scholastic athletes are particularly vulnerable to the scourge of opioid abuse,” says NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White. “When we began speaking with NJ Cares about development of a video for these students and their families, it was clear this was a terrific opportunity. We’re delighted to be collaborating on an initiative that I’m confident will have positive impact on the lives of many young people across our state.”
The NJSIAA is a voluntary, non-profit organization comprised of 437 accredited public, private, and parochial high schools and nearly 300,000 student athletes.
New Jersey law currently requires public school districts, approved private schools for students with disabilities, and nonpublic schools participating in an interscholastic sports program to distribute the Department of Education's Opioid Use and Misuse Educational Fact sheet to all student-athletes and cheerleaders.
The fact sheet includes basic information on how students obtain opioids, signs of opioid use, preventing opioid use and misuse, and ways for athletes to reduce the risk of injury. General prevention resources are also provided.
The video, which will be rolled out for the 2019-2020 school year, will expand the information provided in the fact sheet to include, among other information:
- the importance of properly storing and safely disposing of unused or unwanted medications to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands;
- tools to make informed decisions before starting opioid treatment for a sports injury;
- tips for making return-to-play-decisions that emphasize the student athlete's health, and reject the notion that a student-athlete should play through pain; and
- the importance of providing emotional support to teammates sidelined by injury.
NJ CARES is also a partner in the NJSIAA’s Stop Opioid Abuse Program (“SOAP”), an initiative to share drug abuse avoidance information with high school athletes. Launched in September 2016, SOAP also includes representatives from Garden State Pharmacy Owners, Inc., the New Jersey Prevention Network, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.