According to a recent survey conducted by Capital News Service, only four of Maryland’s 24 public school districts employ full-time athletic trainers to help with high school athletes. Including part-time employees, only 61% of Maryland’s public high schools employ athletic trainers.
What this means is that thousands of student athletes practicing and playing at both practices and games are potentially at risk, owing to the absence of a licensed healthcare professional who can assist during emergency medical situations.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Education estimates that the 199 public schools have, collectively, about 114,000 student athletes, indicating that it’s likely not a matter of “if” this is a future problem for an athlete in trouble, but “when.”
Gina Palermo, the chairwoman of the Secondary Schools Athletic Trainer Committee of the Maryland Athletic Trainers Association and an athletic trainer herself, sees it as, essentially, a case in inequitable distribution. “You’re saying that this group is okay [for public school districts to spend money on], but this group isn’t,” said Palermo.
The full-time athletic trainers are not found throughout the various school districts, but are instead concentrated in Anne Arundel, Caroline, Somerset and Worcester counties — their high schools all have athletic trainers, in comparison to the least wealthy districts, such as Baltimore City Public Schools, which have none between them. Some districts that fall in the middle of the spectrum employ part-time trainers.
Tom Hearn is asking Montgomery County officials to add athletic trainers to their roster. Hearn’s son sustained a concussion in 2012 while playing football. “As the experts say, ‘If you can’t afford to have athletic trainers, you can’t afford to have an athletic program,'” said Hearn.
For some schools, change may be on the way as administrations start to treat athletic trainers as a higher priority for student safety. Washington County Public Schools is one district that will go from no athletic trainers, to one per high school within the next year. “With more and more emphasis being put on injuries and trying to train coaches to deal with them, if you hire an athletic trainer, they are trained to deal with all those things,” said Eric Michael, the district’s supervisor of athletics.