Athletic trainers for all schools

February 17, 2013

What I have said for some time is that if we had athletic trainers in each school we should not need athlete safety legislation. The NATA has said that 42% of high schools have access to athletic trainers. There are two things about this to consider:

1. 42% is a generous number. There are states that are well under that number and there are states that are near that number. Pennsylvania has one of the best and it is still not quite 100%.

2. This is simply access to an athletic trainer. This is not an athletic trainer that is full time and at all practices and games and providing treatment. In some cases they are simply providing evaluations. In some cases they are just there for games.

There is a whole other aspect to this that continues to not be discussed and that is the fact that less than 10% of middle school student-athletes have access to an athletic trainer. So we have less than 42% of our high schools with simply access to a trained professional who can evaluate and appropriately treat an injury. We also have fewer middle schools with someone who has the knowledge to assess and manage an emergency situation appropriately.

Petitions with the White House might gain a response if we get enough signatures. After a few weeks of having a petition to raise awareness we have fewer than 5000 signatures. This is astounding that (even if these signatures were only ATs, and I know that they are NOT solely ATs) we can’t get near the number of ATs that are members mobilized enough to sign a petition in support of ensuring the safety of the student-athletes that we protect. The issue is that the President would still need to support such a thing, and even though it is politically advantageous, it is unlikely.

States associations have taken steps to mandate athletic trainers in every high school. This unfunded mandate is a difficult sell, but is one that state legislators should support. We have mandates for nurses and required ratios. We have mandates for physical, occupational, and speech therapists to assist children with learning. What we are talking about is the health and safety of our youth as they participate in interscholastic athletics. Ensuring that they have someone that can properly assess and manage their injuries to decrease long term problems.

We do not need more athlete safety laws. But that is exactly what we are going to get. The states are going to continue to legislate coaches to try to keep kids safe. The problem is that some coaches just don’t have the time and others simply don’t care that much. We don’t need laws legislating how concussions should be handled by coaches because coaches should not be the ones responsible for them. States need to legislate that someone with appropriate training is present to preserve the health and safety of our youth athletes.

There are many issues that are important in athletic training and this is one of the most important. It is the correct battle, but it is a battle that will need to be fought in each state. Congress needs to take a step though. That step needs to be in saying that states should be doing more.

Secondary school athletic trainers are sometimes not equated the same as college and professional sports athletic trainers. We are all the same and we all need to support the initiatives that are important for our profession. It may not affect NCAA Division I athletics, but we are not strong unless we are unified.

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