A four-month Scripps Howard News Service review found that for every high school that has one or more athletic trainers regularly assigned to the training room, two other schools rely on a patchwork of coaches trained in first
aid and part-time athletic trainers, nurses, emergency medical technicians or team doctors.
As Beth Mallon of San Diego knows, this distinction could mean life or death.
Mallon’s son, Tommy, broke his neck in a collision during his final high-school lacrosse game as a senior at Santa Fe Christian in May 2009.
He wanted to get up off the field. But athletic trainer Riki Kirchoff wouldn’t let him move and called for a backboard.
“That saved his life,” said Mallon, whose family has set up an advocacy group for injured athletes. “It maintained the integrity of the fracture and it didn’t kill him or paralyze him. There couldn’t be better testimony for having athletic trainers in all high schools.”
Nine months earlier, in Louisville, Ky., there was no athletic trainer at Pleasure Ridge Park High School when 15-year-old Max Gilpin collapsed, suffering from apparent heat stroke, as the team ran sprints at the end of football practice. He died three days later.
The coaches who cared for Gilpin had little training in heat illness and didn’t use a whirlpool and ice available in the locker room to cool him.