CINCINNATI (WKRC) – On Friday nights in the fall, in big cities and small towns, you find the heart and soul of a community on full display.
High school sports have become a staple of community pride and success and, this fall, a stage to highlight a growing issue in high school athletics. It involves a simple sticker and the letters “A” and “T.”
As important as the results on the field is the safety of the athletes competing. That’s where an athletic trainer comes in said Greater Cincinnati Athletic Trainers Association president, Mike Gordon.
“Our whole goal is prevention,” Gordon said. “If we can prevent that injury from happening, if we can prevent that emergency from happening, then we’re doing our job well. Then hopefully we’re providing the best care possible. If we’re not doing those things, if we’re not looking forward or being those risk-management type mentality, then we could be putting our kids at risk.”
A lack of athletic trainers, though, continues to be a problem at high schools across our area and the country.
“If you have no medical provider on site, if you have someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, that is just a person out of the stands, that can get really get dicey,” Gordon said. “Especially for schools that are looking for places to prevent injuries and liability.”
Only 37 percent of high schools in the United States have a full-time athletic trainer, according to the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA).
At the University of Connecticut, there is an institute named after a former NFL player who died while playing professional football, former Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer. The Korey Stringer Institute (KSI)’s mission is to provide research, educate and advocate for athletes at all levels.
KSI created ATLAS, or Athletic Training Location and Services, and then mapped the status of athletic training at the more than 20,000 high schools across America.
According to ATLAS, of the 840 schools that make up the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), only 390 schools have a full-time athletic trainer on staff and 290 schools have a part-time trainer. That leaves 160 schools in the state without any athletic training services at all.
In Kentucky, 100 of the 289 schools don’t have an athletic trainer, and in Indiana, 72 of the 438 don’t have one either, according to ATLAS’ data.
“If you have money to be able to have football and to have soccer and to have volleyball and all these sports, if you have money to be able to provide for all that, you need to be able to find money to be able to help have someone on site like an athletic trainer,” Gordon said, “to be able to prevent some of the injuries and to be able to be the risk managers for you.”
Schools with part-time trainers often only have a medical professional present at games, leaving athletes without a medical professional during regular practice hours.
“So when they are there only for game days and you just see them on the sideline with their fannypack on or their slingback on,” Gordon said, “and they are just handing out water bottles you think, ‘OK, they’re safe during that time.’ But the vast majority of the injuries happen during the week and prior to the game.”