Who’s Taking Care of Your Kid on the Playing Field?

California Only State that Does Not Regulate Athletic Training Profession

SAN DIEGO – It is expected that over 500,000 high school students will participate on athletic teams this year in California. Unfortunately for these athletes, there is also the likelihood of sports-related injuries, including some that could prove catastrophic.

The question parents and schools need to ask: Is there a qualified athletic trainer overseeing our student athletes’ safety on the playing field?

Currently, California is the only state in the country that does not regulate athletic trainers – healthcare professionals charged with the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses sustained by athletes and individuals of all ages. As a result, anyone in the state – regardless of education or certification – can act as an athletic trainer, and treat serious injuries like concussions and heat-illness with potentially dire consequences, including a decline in academic performance, disability and death.

The severity of this issue is magnified with a recent report from the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine that found the number of adolescents diagnosed with concussions has grown by over 60 percent since 2007, with the highest incidence seen in the 15-19-year-old-age group. According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, in the 2014-15 sport seasons, there were 78 catastrophic events in the U.S., with 80 percent of those occurring at the high-school level and 10 percent from traumatic brain injury.  Since 2010, there have been at least 25 student-athlete deaths while participating in high-school sports in California.

“Concussions are a common occurrence in athletics, especially in football and girls soccer, so it’s imperative that qualified athletic trainers are overseeing players’ health with proper prevention strategies and post-injury protocols, including return-to-play and return-to-learn oversight,” said Jason Bennett, president of the California Athletic Trainers’ Association (CATA). “We’re aware of hundreds of schools in California which either don’t have an athletic trainer, or their athletic trainer doesn’t have the required education. The health and safety of student athletes is of utmost importance and parents and schools need to be aware that this is a life and death issue.”

Parents can help guard against this danger by asking their children’s schools if there is certified athletic trainer on staff. An athletic trainer’s credentials can also be verified on the Board of Certification’s website.

Assemblymember Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) has introduced legislation that would require licensure for athletic trainers in California – consistent with 49 other states. Under Assembly Bill (AB) 1510, individuals must be certified by the Board of Certification before they can call themselves “athletic trainers.”

“After learning about the bill, multiple parents have expressed their anxieties to me regarding their children’s safety during school sports due to the lack of regulation for athletic trainers,” stated Assemblymember Dababneh. “Parents trust these individuals to protect the health of these student athletes and be the expert on the sidelines when it comes to identifying major issues such as spotting the signs of heat stroke or a concussion. However, without the proper education and training, these signs can easily be missed. AB 1510 will effectively protect the public by ensuring the profession of athletic training is licensed, because no parent should wonder if their child will be safe on the field.”

The bill already passed through Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media with no “no” votes, and is scheduled to be heard at the beginning of 2018. The Assemblymember is hoping to work with Governor Brown in passing the legislation which would define the scope of practice for the profession.

For more information and to learn how you can find out if your student athlete’s athletic trainer is qualified, visit http://ca-at.org/.