NATA partnered with 16 groups, including the National Federation of State High Schools Associations, to form a task force that released its strategies Wednesday in St. Louis at the athletic trainers’ annual meeting.
Estimating seven million students play high school sports each year, NATA said those at only 42% of schools have “access” to athletic trainers for treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.
“Just as you have a responsibility to make sure there is a coach, a facility, a field to play on, equipment and an opposing team to play, you also have a responsibility to provide care,” said Jon Almquist, chair of the task force and athletic training administrator for Fairfax Count public schools in Virginia.
Defensive end Chris Long, a first round pick by the St. Louis Rams in this year’s NFL draft, participated in the news conference. He had the benefit of athletic training support in high school in Virginia.
“I had minor bumps and bruises, things that wouldn’t keep me off the field, but if I didn’t manage them would potentially keep me off the field,” said Long.
“If some kids don’t have the proper guidelines and don’t have people specializing in injury prevention and treatment, that’s when things can go even more wrong.”
First on the list of recommended strategies was that school form “athletic health care” teams made up of physicians, athletic trainers, school nurses, administrators, coaches and parents.
Almquist said a school can hire a full-time athletic trainer for about the same salary as a teacher at that school, with about 10% extra for working year round. “If you’re paying a teacher to start a job at $27,000, you’ll probably want to pay the athletic trainer a starting salary of $30,000,” he said.
NATA’s estimate of students at 42% of school having “access” to athletic trainers includes full-time employees and part-timers who may work only games.
“There is a lot more practice time than there is game time. So there is a lot of time when there is no health care provided,” said Almquist. ” … Does the coach have first-aid training? Many times coaches will provide a decision based on their (past injury experiences) as opposed to basing their decision on education about an injury. That is a critical problem.”
NATA also has partnered with the North American Booster Club Association. “Hopefully, that will take it to the parents’ side,” said Almquist.
Among other strategies recommended by the task force:
•Use of pre-participation physicals to identify athletes who may be at risk of injuries or have medical conditions that could be life-threatening during sports.
• Make sure protective equipment, such as a football helmet, is properly fitted and maintained.
• Establish policies on “hazardous environmental conditions,” which could include heat and lightning.
• Have “qualified individuals on site who can not only care for the injured but also make decisions on when they can return to play.
• Provide nutritional counseling and identify athletes with such potential problems as eating disorders so they can be referred to appropriate treatment.
Joe Hart was head athletic trainer at St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Va., where Chris Long participated in football, baseball, basketball and lacrosse. Now doing research and teaching at the University of Virginia, Hart is attending this week’s meeting.
He said the goal of athletic training is to provide care for all athletes.
“We treated everyone from the struggling JV-B (team) field hockey player to the starting varsity baseball or softball player,” he said. “All were treated equally and were equally important.”