While the number of student athletes continues to climb in U.S. high schools, many participants do not have access to an athletic trainer.
Only 37 percent of public schools across the country provide full-time athletic training services (28 percent in private schools), according to a new study by the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut. Seventy percent of public schools offered some level of athletic training services (58 percent in private schools). Published in the Journal of Athletic Training, the study surveyed 8,509 public and 2,044 private U.S. high schools between 2011 and 2014.
At the time of the study, athletic participation increased for the 25th consecutive year, totaling 7.8 million student athletes, based on data from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Athletic trainers in Texas schools
According to the latest TASB Salary Survey, 79 percent of responding Texas public districts with 1,000 or more students employ at least one full-time athletic trainer. One-hundred percent of districts with 10,000 or more students reported at least one full-time athletic trainer position, compared to 54 percent of smaller districts with enrollment between 1,000 and 3,000 students. During the timeframe of the national study (2011–14), there was a notable increase in districts reporting athletic trainers in the TASB Salary Survey.
Only districts with 1,000 or more students were surveyed for the athletic trainer position.
Texas has the most high school sports participants of any state with nearly 810,000 student athletes, based on the latest data from NFHS.
Strategies to hire an athletic trainer
The study identified several obstacles public schools face in hiring athletic trainers, comprising budget limitations, school size, rural location, and lack of information on the athletic trainer’s role.
As noted by the researchers, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) recommend hiring full-time athletic trainers in schools. The national study identified the following ways to address the lack of athletic trainers in schools:
- Allocate funds during the athletic program budgeting process to employ an athletic trainer.
- Create funding for a position through the “pay-to-play” concept. Require student-athlete participation fees to offset the expense for athletic training services.
- Consider the cost savings in other areas if a full-time athletic trainer is hired, such as a reduction in insurance premiums because of lessened risk and liability issues.
- Partner with a physical therapy or rehabilitation clinic to receive services free of charge if referrals are directed back to the clinic.
- Educate athletic directors and other school administrators on the benefits of athletic trainers. Have the athletic training community, or a health care professional, advocate for these services in your school. In Texas, the Texas State Athletic Trainers’ Association (TSATA) promotes and advances the athletic training profession.
- Share athletic training services with other schools in the area.
- Establish a competitive salary and assure the candidate of job availability, if the individual is relocating to a rural school.