Opioid addiction doesn't discriminate, but certain populations are at a greater risk for getting hooked — including young athletes, who may need a quick fix to take care of the pain of a significant injury.

As another measure to get in front of this vulnerable population, the state and its high school sports oversight organization have created a policy that ensures student-athletes are delivered a message about the potential consequences of starting opioid treatment for a sports injury.

Starting with the 2019-2020 school year, student-athletes — and the parents of those under 18 — will be required to watch an opioid education video before the season begins.

"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 (Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies).

NJ CARES is producing the video with input from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.

"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," Joyce said.

The video will also educate athletes on determining when they should return to play following an injury, as well as the importance of providing emotional support to teammates sidelined by injury. Joyce said they're reaching out to see if professional or college athletes would be willing to participate in the video, as well as a sports medicine expert and individuals who've survived opioid addiction.

"We're delighted to be collaborating on an initiative that I'm confident will have a positive impact on the lives of many young people across our state," said NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White.

State law currently requires that schools participating in an interscholastic sports program distribute an opioid use and misuse fact sheet to all student-athletes and cheerleaders.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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