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Last week in Las Vegas, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association held a news conference as its annual meeting was getting underway on Tuesday.

The subject matter was sufficient to draw the attention of ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" program.

As reported in this space last week, the NATA’s Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine (ICSM) released the results of a survey during the news conference. The survey showed just over half of college athletic programs are in compliance with NCAA legislation that requires athletic healthcare providers have autonomous authority when caring for athletes.

Perhaps more disturbing was that 18.73% of collegiate athletic trainers reported a coach played an athlete who had not been cleared medically to return. The survey also reported that the hiring or firing of athletic trainers was influenced by a coach at 36.32% of schools.

Furthermore, a smaller but significant number of responding athletic trainers acknowledged being pressured to return an athlete as frequently as once per week.

In her reporting for OTL, ESPN staff writer Paula Levigne tied the survey data to the deaths of Maryland football player Jordan McNair and Garden City (Kansas) Community College football player Braeden Bradforth in 2018.

“It is absolutely appropriate and expected for coaches as well as other relevant athletic personnel to ask questions,” said NATA president Tory Lindley in a statement that was released just prior to the press conference. “What is not acceptable is when the inquiry is laced with an expectation to influence, dictate, coerce or challenge the athletic trainer’s autonomous authority to make medical decisions in the sole interest of student athlete health and wellbeing.”

However, during the press conference, referring to the legislation, he said, “We believe this is a sign of progress.”

Munster native Brandon Platt, the baseball athletic trainer at Troy University in Alabama, is the Sun Belt Conference representative to the ICSM. He echoed many of Lindley’s comments when contacted after the news conference.

“The numbers are somewhat alarming,” Platt acknowledged. “We see where we are and where we need to go. We need to improve but we’re headed in the right direction. It was not as good 5-10 years ago.”

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The 2005 Munster High School graduate, who earned his doctorate in athletic training last month, has been at Troy since 2014 and has been serving on the ICSM for the last three years.

The committee meets via conference call monthly and in person twice per year.

“We’re trying to improve healthcare at the collegiate level,” Platt said.

However, the vast majority of athletes are participating at the youth and high school levels. There are few athletic trainers and team physicians at the youth level, but they are present more often than not at high schools. Shouldn’t they be able to practice with the same autonomy the NCAA is mandating at the college level?

“Yes, absolutely,” Platt replied.

Kansas University athletic trainer Murphy Grant chairs the ICSM and spoke after Lindley at the news conference.

Asked the same question as Platt, Grant would only reply, “It doesn’t matter what level you are on. A commitment to health and safety (should have) no boundaries.”

Also during the NATA annual meeting …

… Munster High School athletic trainer Mary Spina spoke about innovation at the high school level during a panel discussion sponsored by Gatorade.

… Chesterton High School athletic trainer Bernie Stento, serving as moderator for a session where an orthopedic surgeon was performing a joint replacement on a cadaver, was called into action when a cameraman recording the event passed out.

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

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