Oft-Criticized NFL Gets It Right by Funding Athletic Trainers at High Schools

Say what you want about the NFL and its self-serving ways from time to time. But its latest announced initiative will help reduce concussions. Specifically:

“The NFL Foundation, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), Gatorade and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) have announced the winners of the Athletic Trainer Initiative, a national grant contest to expand access to athletic trainers in underserved high schools and improve youth athlete safety. The fifteen winning schools each received $50,000 to develop athletic training programs that will provide nearly 5,000 student athletes with consistent access to this valuable resource. The announcement was made at the seventh-annual Youth Sports Safety Summit, hosted by NATA and the Youth Sports Safety Alliance.

The winners of the national grant contest are (more details included below):

  • Alden-Conger Public School (Alden, MN)
  • Attica Central School (Attica, NY)
  • California Lutheran High School (Wildomar, CA)
  • Canyon Ridge High School (Twin Falls, ID)
  • Carlisle High School (Henderson, TX)
  • John Muir High School (Pasadena, CA)
  • Lutheran High School (Chula Vista, CA)
  • Marist High School (Bayonne, NJ)
  • Mount St. Michael Academy (Bronx, NY)
  • Orrick R-XI High School (Orrick, MO)
  • Pleasant Valley High School (Chico, CA)
  • Anthony Village High School (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Thomas More High School (Rapid City, SD)
  • Walpole High School (Walpole, MA)
  • William V. Fisher Catholic High School (Lancaster, OH)

Ten additional high schools will receive an athletic safety presentation given by a local athletic trainer and a safety kit, which includes a Hydration Starter Kit from Gatorade and educational materials.

“This effort addresses a critical need and provides the means for these high schools to establish athletic training programs that will enhance the health and safety of their student athletes,” said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of health and safety policy. “This is an area of priority for us, and we will continue to work with our partners to expand access to athletic trainers in more schools across the country.”

Athletic trainers play a vital role in the health and safety of athletes. A recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that the presence of athletic trainers resulted in lower overall injury rates, improved diagnosis and return-to-play decisions for concussion and other injuries, and fewer recurrent injuries for student athletes. However, nearly two-thirds of high schools lack a full-time athletic trainer and almost thirty-percent do not have access to any athletic training services. This grant contest helps to tackle this need by providing schools with the necessary funding, educational resources, and programmatic support to put athletic trainers on the sidelines and better protect their athletes.

“A top priority of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is the health and safety of the high school athlete,” said NATA President Scott Sailor, EdD, ATC. “Through our partnership with the NFL, Gatorade and Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society, more students will be protected with the best possible safety measures in place.”

The grant contest, which launched in October, is an extension of the partners’ athletic training outreach program. The partners have committed more than $3 million to help fund athletic trainers in communities nationwide. To date, the outreach program has impacted an estimated 160,000 student athletes across more than 670 schools.

“We understand the importance of secondary school athletic trainers and believe partnerships like this one are key to ensuring youth athlete safety,” said Jeff Kearney, head of Gatorade Sports Marketing. “This program has brought us one step closer to the ultimate goal of having a full-time athletic trainer in every high school in the country, and we are proud to have worked with the NFL, NATA and PFATS on this important initiative.”

“The Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society is pleased to be a part of this important initiative,” said Rick Burkholder, MS, ATC, PFATS president and head athletic trainer of the Kansas City Chiefs. “Athletic trainers play a critical role in the overall safety of all athletes, and the students at these winning schools will receive the medical services they so deserve.”

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