Study: Athlete Safety ‘Not a Priority’ in U.S. High Schools

safety of student-athletes

Over one-third of schools have no access to athletic trainers

Research shows that high schools with athletic trainers have lower injury rates. Therefore, it’s especially disturbing to read new research indicating that 34 percent of schools have no access to athletic trainers.

Furthermore, the study indicates that lack of appropriate sports medicine care is even greater for private schools (45 percent with no AT access) where parents are traditionally paying for what they perceive as a better and safer experience.

The study, Athletic Trainer Services in the Secondary School Setting: The Athletic Training and Locations Services Project (ATLAS), was conducted by the Korey Stringer Institute and published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

“Despite an increase in the number of legal cases, court-ordered overhauling of health and safety policies and awarding of large settlements, school districts, school education boards, state legislators and state athletic associations continue to take a reactive, rather than proactive, approach to addressing safety concerns,” said lead author Robert Huggins, PhD, LAT, ATC.

“Providing appropriate care for student-athletes comes down to priorities. The safety of student-athletes must be the top priority for schools with athletic programs, not just in rhetoric, but an allocation of resources to put the appropriate personnel in place,” said NATA President Tory Lindley, MA, ATC. “Schools need to see athletic trainers are an essential requirement for having an athletics program – similar to how they see the coach. While coaches oversee play on the field, athletic trainers are responsible for injury prevention and addressing the physical and mental effects of playing the game. Athletic trainers should not be a luxury but rather a necessity for all programs.”

Notable statistics:

  • Of the 20,272 secondary schools identified, 66% schools (13,473) had “access” to athletic trainer services, defined as receiving services in any form by a licensed or certified AT, while 34% (6,799) had no access.
  • Of those schools with access to AT services, 53% (7,119) received full-time (FT) services, the gold standard of care, while 47% (6,354) received part-time (PT) services.
  • Public schools (16,076) had 37% FT, 32% PT and 31% with no AT services, whereas private schools (4,196) received 27% FT, 28% PT and 45% with no AT services.

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