NICEVILLE, Fla., Aug. 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- High school sophomore Taylor Haugen was just 15 years old when he died playing football, the game he loved. That was a decade ago, on Aug. 30, 2008.
No one realized at the time that the severe abdominal injury the young wide receiver sustained on the playing field would give rise to a movement focused almost exclusively on preventing such injuries, which are more common than most people might believe. A lethal problem too often overlooked or dismissed within the wider sports community was no longer going to be so easily ignored.
This month, on the 10th anniversary of Taylor's passing, the foundation that now bears his name is pursuing the prevention of abdominal injuries in football with increased vigor and intensity. For starters, the Taylor Haugen Foundation is launching a national #PledgetoProtect campaign to foster open dialogue about the issue of abdominal injuries and encourage better protection against them.
The new campaign invites those closest to the issue – student-athletes, their coaches and trainers, parents, school administrators and boosters, the medical community, and others – to pledge to help better protect young football players from the risks of abdominal injuries, whether it's through simple awareness, or making sure the athletes have the right protective gear, or even ensuring they are receiving proper instruction on safe tackling techniques.
Anyone can simply visit the Taylor Haugen Foundation website to take the Pledge, which is shareable on other social media platforms.
"With a new football season kicking off, we're urging everyone to take the Pledge to Protect, for the sake of our young athletes," said Kathy Haugen, co-founder with husband Brian of the Taylor Haugen Foundation, which was established in fall 2008 in honor of their late son.
In addition, the Haugens say their foundation has set a new goal of making sure that, by 2028, everyone playing youth football throughout the United States is wearing abdominal protection equipment as an essential part of their sports gear.
"One of the biggest lessons we learned from Taylor's death – and from the grieving parents of other kids who've been injured or died under similar circumstances – is that people have not been taking the problem of abdominal injuries in football seriously enough," Kathy Haugen said.
"Kids are not being properly outfitted to protect against these injuries, and in many cases the players and their parents are not even being made aware of these risks," she pointed out. "That really woke us up to a failure in the system. We have to stop being so reckless with our children's lives and start making sure they have the protection they need when they're playing the game they love so much. To do that, we must first ramp up the dialogue."
As the nation's leading advocate of abdominal injury prevention and protection for secondary school athletes, the Taylor Haugen Foundation will begin lobbying state and national high school athletic associations and related groups in an effort to make abdominal protection gear standard for youth football – instead of an add-on or an afterthought – within the next decade, Brian Haugen revealed.
"High school coaches and parents of student-athletes need to know that there is a good variety of effective, high-tech abdominal safety equipment that's not just accessible, but also fairly inexpensive," he stressed. "It should not be that difficult to make this vital type of gear a basic part of the football uniform all over the U.S."
In the meantime, the foundation will continue its longstanding grassroots efforts to reach players, coaches, trainers, parents, etc., with both educational material and the latest protective equipment addressing abdominal injuries.
Those efforts include the foundation's signature initiative, its YESS Program (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety), which, in addition to raising awareness about the importance of abdominal safety, helps provide protective sports equipment to school teams. Over the past decade, nearly 4,500 youths in 74 schools across 13 states have been outfitted by the YESS Program with protective sports gear aimed at lowering the incidence of abdominal trauma.
"We're proud of the growth of the YESS Program as the only known nonprofit in the country dealing solely with this recurring injury, and we're going to continue advocating more abdominal protection," Brain Haugen vowed.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation is based in Okaloosa County on the Florida Panhandle, where Taylor played for the Niceville High School junior varsity football team. During that August scrimmage a decade ago, he ruptured his liver when he was tackled simultaneously by two defenders coming from opposite directions. The traumatic abdominal injury proved fatal, taking Taylor's life despite hours of surgery. The foundation is part of Taylor's legacy, a movement to protect other aspiring young athletes from this type of life-threatening risk.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation accepts donations at https://taylorhaugen.org/donate/. In addition to the new #PledgetoProtect campaign, the foundation also has rubber wristbands and magnetic car ribbons available for those wishing to show their support for the organization and to honor the life of Taylor Haugen.
About the Taylor Haugen Foundation
The Taylor Haugen Foundation was created to honor the memory of the 15-year-old Niceville High School student who died from an abdominal injury sustained during a football game in 2008. In the spirit of Taylor Haugen's extraordinary character, the mission of the foundation is to provide support and recognition to faith-based student-athletes and community organizations through awards, scholarships and funding. The foundation serves to recognize the following attributes and character traits: Christian faith, athletics, community service, academics, and leadership.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation is a member of the Youth Sports Safety Alliance and works closely with the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The organization also receives support from the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, in Gulf Breeze, Florida. For more information, visit www.taylorhaugen.org or call (850) 842-9093.
SOURCE Taylor Haugen Foundation