By Neto Baptiste
Former West Indies fast bowler, Kenneth Benjamin, has called on associations, clubs and other sporting organisations to invest in the health of players even at a junior level.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show Benjamin, who is also President of the Liberta Sports club, said that once players gravitate to national representation, starting at the youth levels, some medical tests must become commonplace or even mandatory.
“There should be certain tests that should be required to make sure that the heart is functioning well; that they are not diabetic, because all of these things will affect performance. I have been calling for this since March because now is the time, even though they are saying cricket may restart, but with the weather and all sorts of things that could happen between now and the fourth [of December], I am urging all of the associations, I am urging all of the clubs, now is the time to do a lot of the planning. Sit down and see what went wrong in the last 20 years and what can go wrong in the next 20 years and see if we can come up with a plan,” he said.
Benjamin, who also played for the Leeward Islands cricket team said that although some athletes may develop career-ending conditions at a young age, they may not become evident until one starts to really push the body to its limits.
“We need to start looking from the association level, and when they start making the junior association teams, whether under-13s, under-15s and that is where you probably could start that because they are still in school as well so you basically cover two birds there, but it has to come from the national associations,” he said.
“If you really check the history of these conditions and other conditions that stop athletes as well, it is when they really start to play on a consistent level, so at the amateur level where it is probably only on the weekends and they don’t train that hard, sometimes it doesn’t really affect them because when they start to compete at the higher levels where they need more training, and they are putting the body under more stress, then you start to see these things start to creep up,” he added.
The cricket coach reminded that a diagnosis for a young player does not necessarily signal an end to a young athlete’s involvement in any sport.
“With no organisation, these things are going to pass over the coach’s head, and there are so many positions that people could make a living off of, even around clubs, and one of those things is the medical people, the trainers,” Benjamin said.
“There are people who don’t really have the ability to go further in sports, so all of the clubs need to have medical personnel around these clubs, because it is very critical, and what you want to start to target are those athletes who have the potential to go forward,” he added.
No association, and or, clubs require mandatory medical checks in Antigua. There are also no mandatory checks at the national level.