LITTLE ROCK, Ark (THV11): It seems like every time we turn on the news, open a newspaper or scroll through social media, there’s a story about the inherent risk of playing sports. As these stories garner attention, athletes are being put through much more extensive medical exams. But the Arkansas Athletic Trainers Association believes secondary schools still has a long way to go. Now, they’re using football to change it.
"Football is what it is in the South, it’s more of religion than it is a sport. So we’re using it to gain traction. To fit the need of athletic trainers in the secondary school setting," says Cabot trainer Jason Cates.
Today in the state of Arkansas, 62% of secondary schools (double the national average) do not have appropriate medical services for athletes, per Korey Stringer Institute.
"That means games, around the clock trainers caring for the kids at the school level.
Coin the phrase, that you’d never take your kid and drop them off at the pool without a lifeguard. Why would you ever take them to an athletic event and drop them off without and athletic trainer present?"
Meet Cabot high school’s head athletic trainer, Jason Cates. In 2011, he joined the panthers as the school’s first ever athletic trainer. He’s since added four to his staff, making them the largest group of athletic trainers in the state.
"We need athletic healthcare in secondary schools. Colleges have it, professional atheltes have it. Why don't high schools have it?" He questions.
He’s passionate about bringing trainers into every secondary school in Arkansas.
I want to see a change across the country.
The main problem is a lack of funding. Which is why the AATA has created “Safety In Football,” a campaign to bring awareness to the need to athletic trainers. If professional and collegiate athletes have them, why shouldn’t high schoolers?
I think we kind of have it backwards. I understand that they are multi million dollar athletes, they may be Olympians but I think this age group is our future, why is is the cart in front of the horse?
Ayden Shurley is a senior tight end at Cabot who’s benefited from the likes of caring athletic trainers.
"I definitely feel safer, a lot safer. If you’re hurt and laying there on the field and you’re like oh gosh I don’t know what’s going on but they’ve already assessed what’s going on and how to fix it."
He also reveals the daunting truth of how he might’ve handled injuries without a trainer.
“I probably go home and ice it myself, I never wouldn’t done it by myself.”
For several schools around Arkansas, that’s a reality. And there’s no way to know exactly how those athletes are being effected long-term. Little Rock Mills is one of those schools.
"I don’t notice not having it because for my entire career that was the norm. 25 years ago no one had a trainer. That was a coaches duty was to understand basic injuries," says Mill's head football coach Patrick Russell.
"With society the way it is now, people looking to make sure you’re taking care of your things. We're a little more prone to law suits of that nature then yes we want one and need one."