The biggest school district in the Santa Clarita Valley is taking a major step to further ensure the safety of its high school athletes.
The William S. Hart Union High School District announced Thursday its plans to partner with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in the hiring of full-time certified athletic trainers at each of its six high school campuses.
It’s a move that the district says will fill a needed gap in both the treatment and prevention of sports injuries across the board.
“We’re very excited about it because it’s something that’s kind of a hallmark now of first-rate high school athletic programs,” said Greg Lee, Hart district director of human resources and equity services. “Athletic trainers have been in place in private schools for a while, some private schools. It’s not that typical right now for a public school system to have athletic trainers full-time at all of their campuses, so this is really going to be putting the Hart district in the company of some very elite programs around the state if not across the nation.”
The National Athletic Trainers’ Association reported in 2014 that only 37 percent of public high schools employ an athletic trainer.
For most schools, according to the NATA, the primary reason for not having trainers on campus is budget restrictions. That’s no longer an issue for the Hart district, which will split the cost of the new hires 50/50 with Henry Mayo Hospital.
“I’ve been really happy with how engaged the Hart district is. The coaching staff, the administrators, everybody really sees that this is a great opportunity to safeguard the athletes and the students and everybody’s really been on board,” said John Adam, assistant director of rehab services at Henry Mayo.
The hospital’s partnership with the district is part of a larger plan to reach out the community and spread awareness about dealing with athletic injuries.
A lot of the spark behind the original formation of the partnership began when a new state law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, requiring student athletes who are suspected of concussions to be cleared by a licensed health care provider before returning to play.
Though that law pertains specifically to concussions, athletic trainers will be dealing with the full gamut of potential injuries to the 5,000-plus athletes across 17 different sports in the district.
“The hospital is allowing us through this partnership to offer an innovative program that we probably would not have otherwise been able to get started,” said Hart district Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht. “Having a certified athletic trainer on each of our six comprehensive campuses is going to help us to protect the health of our student athletes.”
Under its current setup, Valencia High School is the only of the six high schools in the district with an athletic trainer on campus. He heads up Valencia’s sports medicine program, which has existed for about 15 years.
At the other five schools — Canyon, Golden Valley, Hart, Saugus and West Ranch — it’s typically up to coaches to make immediate rulings on injuries and whether or not an athlete should return to the game.
The district does require a licensed physician to be present at all football games, but that requirement isn’t in place for most other sports.
Adam said the addition of a trainer will take the pressure off coaches and give athletes more accurate information on how to treat injuries and ailments. As is currently the case at Valencia High, the plan is to add sports medicine programs at the other five schools to provide the athletic trainers with a virtual staff of student volunteers.
The people being hired for these positions are all board certified trainers by the NATA, and they all have bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees in athletic training.
“We’re getting some people that are top flight,” Lee said.
He added that the district plans to have the trainers in place at all schools by mid-February.