Just over a third of US high schools have at least one full-time athletic trainer, the gold standard of care recommended by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), according to a study published in February in the Journal of Athletic Training, the association’s scientific publication.
While 70% of US public high schools have athletic training services, only 37% have full-time athletic trainers, though 47% report full practice coverage each afternoon. A 1994 study found that only 35% of public high schools used athletic trainer services, meaning overall access has doubled over the past 20 years.
Athletic trainers worked most often at games and competitions rather than at practices, placing athletes at a substantial risk of injury during a large portion of sport participation, the authors noted.
According to the study, secondary schools without AT services rely on coaches and administrators such as athletic directors to determine proper medical treatment when injuries and emergencies arise during a practice or competition.
“While this significant increase is promising, the quality of care in secondary schools will continue to improve as the number of schools with athletic trainers—particularly full-time—increases,” said Jim Thornton, MA, ATC, CES, NATA president.