JOHN DOHERTY: Athletic trainers are a few good men and women

2014-03-24T21:00:00Z 2014-03-25T19:03:15Z JOHN DOHERTY: Athletic trainers are a few good men and womenJohn Doherty Sports Medicine
March 24, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

As National Athletic Training Month draws to a close, it may be worth considering what the schools in your community have or don’t have in terms of athletic training services.

In this day of tight school budgets on both sides of the state line, some may feel compelled to ask if athletic trainers are truly necessary.

Still, if the answer is yes — an athletic trainer is necessary — is just one enough?

Naturally, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) believes an athletic trainer should be in every secondary school with an organized athletic program. That organization is not alone in its opinion. It is shared by the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to name a few.

To the naysayers, I ask if there is no athletic trainer, who is going to provide quality athletic health care on a daily basis?

The coach? Let’s get serious. Some may have the ability, but none have the time.

The school nurse? He or she has already put in a full day’s work by the time the final bell sounds at 2:30 or 3. Furthermore, nurses lack the formal, sports-specific background provided by an accredited college athletic training program.

A volunteer parent who is also a medical professional? You get what you pay for.

While the existence of athletic trainers may be grotesque and incomprehensible to some “spit on it and rub it in” traditionalists, their presence saves lives. Just ask Dallas Stars center Rich Peverley.

On a more practical, day-to-day basis, athletes at schools with an athletic trainer suffer significantly fewer injuries than those whose schools don’t have an athletic trainer.

Deep down, every athletic director without an athletic trainer — and who publicly mouths his or her support for such a policy — wants one on that sideline and probably needs more.

At the major college level, the accepted standard is at least one athletic trainer for each contact/collision team. In the athletic trainer’s off-season(s), he or she may cover another non-contact sport. Athletes at the high school or junior high level are injured as often as those in college, if not more so, and require the same level of care.

High schools sports teams have multiple assistant coaches. If a school is able to afford paid coaches, it can afford athletic trainers.

Actually in this litigious age, a school can’t afford not having an athletic trainer. An Inter-Association Consensus Statement published earlier this year by the NATA, NFHS, NCAA, AAP, and the NAIA — among others — reads in part, “The (athletic trainer’s) primary responsibility is for the health and safety of the student athlete; however, an additional responsibility is to protect the institution from liability.”

That responsibility may be greater than some school administrators can fathom. Obviously so in the case of districts that do not have an athletic trainer. However, I have neither the time nor the space to explain my case further.

I would rather just say thank you to the schools that have these few good men and women on their staffs and value the work that they do.

John Doherty is licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT

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