Sitting in the stands watching three sons play football gave Zina Barrow of Arlington, Texas time to think and worry about the “what if’s” of having children athletes. “I am a mother of three boys. They are all in football, and the youngest one is seven, the oldest one 17 years-old. Every single time a player goes down, I just go into prayer mode, hoping that child can get back up,” Barrow said.
Each year an estimated 11,000 sports injuries related to the spinal cord occur. Although Barrow can’t protect everyone on the field, she is forming an army of supporters to help when tragedy strikes. The National Sports Leagues of America was launched to take care of an important part of the sports industry at high school, college level and beyond. The NSLA was started to act as a free resource for schools, colleges and professional sports organizations in an effort to assist athletes and coaches who have suffered or sustained injury.
In June of 2011, Barrow became President of NSLA to become part of a revolutionary community that will change the face of sports and also because she strongly believes in NSLA’s purpose to help victims who are deeply affected by sports-related tragedies. Barrow knows what being the parent of a young athlete could mean, especially at the start of each football season. Her own sons follow in the footsteps of their father, Joe Gordon, the onetime cornerback for Kansas State who went on to play for the St. Louis Rams and in the NFL Europe.
The focus of the organization is to help those affected when an athlete is injured as a result of a spinal cord injury or even suffers death due to heat stroke or sudden cardiac arrest. NSLA provides a crucial patent-pending service, “Injured Athlete Alert” that ensures a maximized response rate and improved fundraising efforts.
Barrow is partnering with community partners across the nation that can offer much needed emotional support to families whose lives are changed on the field. “Sports related injuries can be outrageous when it comes to mental and emotional drama that takes place,” said Barrow. “Our goal is to be an extension to the injured athlete’s family that they never met. A lifeline for families when tragedy strikes,” said Barrow. Families who are affected by tragic sports-related events often need a way to cover the medical or funeral costs involved. Even with immediate fundraising efforts in place, the problem is often getting enough recognition to raise the funds needed.
Brent Callaway is an internationally known Strength and Speed Coach and a Global Performance Coach for Adidas. “NSLA is an amazing organization that is built to help those in need. In the past I have always wanted to help hospitalized athletes financially when possible and NSLA now makes that not only possible, but easy,” said Callaway. “I have been a speed and strength coach to professional athletes since 2003 and worked with scholastic aged athletes since 1999. I have personally seen the devastating effect on the emotional lives of athletes with major injuries and had the ability to help these athletes get back to game speed through coaching. However, I have always felt helpless when athletes are hospitalized. NSLA allows me to get involved in the lives and recovery process of these athletes now as well.”
Barrow’s first goal is to reach 20,000 members by May. “A member is someone who simply visits our website https://thensla.webconnex.com/registernow, and agrees to be contacted when an athlete or coach becomes injured and would be willing to make a donation.”
Callaway believes that teenagers and children should not be deprived from the best services when a catastrophic sports injury happens and this system removes the financial barriers for families, allowing the athletes to get the best care possible, which hopefully leads to a full recovery in every case.
“It is about having a support system of the athletic team, student body, family and other members to spring into action to help an injured athlete,” said Barrow. “Widespread effort is what can make the difference in being able to cover expenses and even have support in the form of get-well cards and non-monetary gifts,” said Barrow.
Injuries happen in big cities, small communities and across many different activities. NSLA is working to increase visibility and helping unite those who share a love for the game beyond local communities and share it across the nation. As Barrow rightly says, “We have a job to do, and that is for every school and sports organization across the country to be a member of the NSLA network. I won’t stop until that happens.”
For more information or to register for an Injured Athlete Alert, visit http://www.thensla.com/
Most Dangerous Sports:
• Each year an estimated 110,000 new spinal cord related injuries occur. Of these, 11,000 (approximately 10%) are related to sports injuries.
• As many as 82% of these tragedies involve male athletes
• 52% of spinal cord injuries are categorized as paraplegic (meaning from the waist down)
• 48% of these types of injuries leave the patient quadriplegic (meaning from the neck down)
• The sad truth is that the number of paralyzed victims from spinal cord injury is 1,275,000