Each Friday night, or whenever our local high school football teams play, there is one question that pops up as we enter the gates: Does the home team have a full-time athletic trainer or is there a qualified person in attendance?
It’s not as dumb as it sounds. Most of those who attend games probably don’t know the real answer, or don’t think about it. Heres a hint: California remains the only state in the nation that doesn’t recognize athletic trainers as licensed health care professionals.
According to a Sacramento KOVR/Channel 13 report, 80 percent of California high schools don’t employ full-time athletic trainers.
Roger Blake, executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation, readily concedes it’s a money issue.
“There’s a price tag to this,” Blake said. “I mean, if there was an athletic trainer at all 1,576 schools, that means every school is going to have to hire this individual.”
Not exactly what parents want to hear.
Certain districts are ahead of the state legislature with full-time trainers on staff and others have part-time trainers. Plenty of parents, and fans of the high school sport, think of these folks as locker room attendants but that’s far from the truth.
Last Friday night, in the closing minutes of the Riverside Norte Vista-Sultana game in Hesperia, all our worst fears about the sport unfolded. Sultana’s Bruce Henderson, a senior defensive end, made a tackle and fell to the ground, helmet first. Although Henderson left the field on his own, the coaching staff knew something was amiss. He was evaluated by trainer Jeremy Hernandez, who made the decision to have him transported to Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville.
Henderson was later airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Center in Colton, where he later underwent emergency surgery. By midweek, the 16-year-old senior was sitting but still in critical condition.
Credit head coach Keith Locklear and his staff with two victories on that night. Now only did the Sultans beat Norte Vista 7-0, but their quick actions more than likely saved Henderson’s life. It might sound cliché or coach-speak, but it was a team effort.
The result of quick analysis and action by the Sultana staff should be forwarded to those districts that have opted not to put an athletic trainer on staff. If those districts actually look into it, they’ll find schools that have added athletic trainers have decreased insurance costs.
This is not your father’s athletic trainer, who (for the most part) was a locker room attendant that could tape an ankle or rub a muscle. Today’s trainers can prevent injuries, diagnosis athletes when hurt, provide emergency care, provide therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Furthermore, they’ll act as a liaison between physicians and parents.
And these trainers are trusted by players and coaches.
Of course there’s always concern about budgetary considerations by the district. It’s a valid point, but studies indicate trainers save money.
According to a study by the Korey Stringer Institute, information shows liability insurance carriers’ and medical providers’ premiums are higher without an athletic trainer. Additionally, with a trainer on staff, athletes may be more comfortable reporting concussion symptoms than to a physician or coach.
The addition of athletic trainers is on the rise. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, a recent study showed about seven out of 10 secondary schools with an ongoing athletic program in the country have access to athletic trainers, double from the 1994 estimate of about 3.5 percent.
Locally, the Chaffey Joint Union High School District has set a leading example. All eight high schools have athletic trainers, with Andrew Liu of Rancho Cucamonga leading in seniority with 25 years.
Not only does Liu instruct students who take his classes, he also guides interns from the University of La Verne and is assisted by doctors from Kaiser Permanente.
Liu has had quite a run, but remember this is the same district that employed the late Homer Thompson at Chaffey, Clark Goodwin at Montclair and Mike Ellert at Alta Loma for more than a combined total of nearly 90 years of experience.
In fact, Ellert got his start working for Thompson while a Chaffey student. Although he retired two years ago, Ellert can still be spotted on the Alta Loma sideline in the fall.
“He’s a treasure,” said long-time Alta Loma athletic director Brett Procter.
The same is being said this week of Hernandez in the High Desert.