Florida High Schools Struggle to Fund AT Programs

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Athletic trainers in the state of Florida are looking around and starting to feel the fear, as several counties are being forced to cut full-time trainers from their school budgets.

Only-one third of the state’s high schools currently employ a full-time athletic trainer, according to the Athletic Trainers’ Association of Florida.

Kevin Eichorn, who has worked as the athletic trainer on staff at Booker High School for the past 15 years, told MySuncoast that trainers’ work at the high school level often goes unnoticed and undervalued.

"We're constantly defending ourselves. I feel like we constantly defend what an athletic trainer is, what an athletic trainer does," he said.

According to Eichorn, who is also the overseer for all high school athletic trainers in Sarasota County through the district’s third-party provider, Agility Physical Therapy, ATs treat on average 430 student-athlete injuries per year.

Even so, in nearby Pasco County, the district has made the decision to begin the school year without athletic trainers, after Florida Hospital canceled its contract agreement to finance the services.

Hillsborough County’s AT program may also be vulnerable as it was recently denied $2.4 million in state funding to support training services at the schools.

Florida schools are losing millions in capital funding as a result of HB 7069, an education bill that limits the available operating dollars used to pay athletic trainers.

Says Eichorn, "When things come across the news about budgets being cut in the school system, it always makes the hair on my neck stand, because I always feel at some point, we could be on the chopping block."

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