High school athletic trainers are an important part of the student-athlete experience, providing services that enhance athlete safety that include preventive and emergency care. But in California, 80 percent of high schools don’t employ an athletic trainer full-time, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
California is unique in that it’s the only state that doesn’t require certification or licensing for people who call themselves athletic trainers.
“In California, anyone can say they are an ‘athletic trainer’ regardless of educational preparedness or skill,” Tom Abdenour, an athletic trainer with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors told the Union-Tribune. “Needless to say, this can put a young student-athlete at risk if the wrong person does the wrong thing at the wrong time.”
State legislation that would have required athletic trainers to have fulfilled requirements for certification by a national body was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 despite having the support of both the California Athletic Trainers’ Association and the state Legislature.
Brown’s reasoning behind the veto, according to the Union-Tribune, was that the “burden” of requiring athletic trainers to meet certification requirements outweighs the potential risks of schools using unlicensed trainers.
The California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees high school athletics in the state, is unable to mandate full-time athletic trainers because that falls outside their jurisdiction as a personnel issue. The lack of athletic trainers speaks to a second problem the schools face: budget woes.
“I think it really comes down to resources,” Robbie Bowers, a certified athletic trainer at Rancho Bernardo High School, told the Union-Tribune. “In the past, I think there was confusion as to what an athletic trainer was/does, but I think through education that perception is becoming more clear and [schools] are desiring an athletic trainer. How to pay for it has become the bigger issue.”
School districts have tackled the issue in different ways. San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest district, contracts with UC San Diego to hire certified athletic trainers on a part-time basis. Another district budgets $10,000 for each of its schools to allow them to hire part-time ATs. Some schools employ athletic-trainers who also teach courses during the day.