American College of Sports Medicine honors expert who made sports safer

June 24, 2003

CHAPEL HILL -- In recognition of his tireless work on -- and success in -- cutting fatal and severe injuries to U.S. athletes, the American College of Sports Medicine has presented one of its top awards to Dr. Frederick O. Mueller, chair of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mueller, who received the Citation Award at the ACSM's recent annual meeting in San Francisco, was honored for his pioneering efforts in athletic injury research for more than 35 years.

"For over 25 years, he has served as the founder and director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, the premiere injury recording registry for such injuries in scholar and professional sports involving men and women," the college's citation read. "This registry has served as an invaluable source of epidemiological information which has led to rules, conditioning and safety equipment changes in numerous sports, including football, trampoline, pole vaulting and cheerleading."

The registry, funded by the National Collegiate Athletics Association, "has also been an invaluable resource for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other governmental and scientific organizations, as well as for individual investigators interested in catastrophic sports injury."

For decades, Mueller has spoken on sports injury topics before a wide variety of national and international organizations including the NCAA, the American Football Coaches Association and the ACSM, of which he has been a fellow since 1975. He also has published many papers, book chapters and books on injuries among high school and college athletes.

Each year, the center Mueller directs produces reports on deaths and severe injuries from amateur and professional sports.

Reports are based partly on newspaper stories from around the United States, along with information from the NCAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations and more than 150 volunteers who monitor sports accidents.

As an examples of the effectiveness of specific efforts by Mueller and others, in 1968, 36 healthy young high school football players died as the direct result of injuries suffered while playing the game, a toll that shocked doctors, coaches and the public.

In 1990, not one U.S. football player died from mishaps on the field in games or during practices, and since then, the number of such fatalities almost always could be counted on one hand.

Also reduced were heatstroke deaths, which Muller said were almost entirely avoidable. Now, almost all coaches are sensitive to the need to allow football players and other athletes as much water as they want and cooling-off periods during practice.

In 1994, the UNC professor published a study showing that, surprisingly, cheerleading was the most hazardous sport for girls and young women. That study led in part to regulations in many states prohibiting some of the most dangerous aspects of the sport. More recently, he participated in a UNC School of Public Health study demonstrating that use of "safety" baseballs could significantly reduce the number of injuries Little League baseball players suffer.

Mueller already has received numerous honors, including awards from such organizations as the U.S. Product Safety Commission, the NCAA, the National Federation of State High Schools and the U.S. Sports Academy.
-end-
By David Williamson
UNC News Services

Note: Mueller can be reached at 919-962-5171.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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