SACRAMENTO — According to the California Interscholastic Federation, there are more than 800,000 high school athletes in the state but California does not require schools to have certified athletic trainers at practices and games.
“Absolutely, we have to fix it. It is alarming because health and safety questions on the sidelines of a football game, or about concussions, or in a gym at a volleyball match are being made by coaches and not a medical professional,” CIF Director Roger Blake said.
The CIF has made it one of its top priorities recently to educate principals, superintendents and athletic directors on the importance of having athletic trainers because the decision to hire or not hire athletic trainers at the high school level is a district decision, just like hiring a teacher. It can cost between $50,000 to $100,000. Many schools, especially in the Sacramento region, have been told no by their districts when it comes to funding an athletic trainer.
“I don’t know how you dictate to a business that you must have this, and you must have them pay for it. So, if you look at it from a business standpoint I think it’s hard. From a ‘want’ standpoint, absolutely,” Oak Ridge High School Athletic Director Stephen White said.
The solution Oak Ridge found was to pay for an athletic trainer through its sports booster club.
“He comes here three days a week for about an hour and sees any of the kids who have injuries or nicks or bumps and bruises and evaluate if they need to get looked at further, or they’re just hurt,” White said.
Still, that means parents, volunteers and often coaches must take it upon themselves in assessing injuries, concussions, heat stroke, cardiac arrest and more. Some of those require an immediate response.
“Coaches are required to be CPR and ADA First Aid certified, but in my opinion, it’s not enough,” Turlock High School athletic trainer Mike Collins said.
Collins has been with Turlock High School as its athletic trainer since 198. He’s aware that what he’s able to provide to student-athletes is a luxury to most other California schools.
Darci Calista is one of three athletic trainers at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, one of the best programs in the state. The private school even educates students who want to possibly work in the medical field someday. The decision to fund the program is entirely up to the school and is a primary example of the benefits of having a trained medical professional work with student-athletes.
“I would hope people could make it more of a priority, especially with the concussion protocols,” Calista said. “I know how long it takes us, and how valuable it is to have a liaison between the doctor and the parents and the coaches and the athlete.”
One big wrinkle in the problem is that California is the only state that does not regulate the profession of athletic training, meaning anyone can call themselves an athletic trainer — whether they are certified or not.
Legislation on the matter is making its way through the State Capitol.