Iowa Becomes Latest to Try for Certified Personnel on the Sidelines
24 Feb, 2016By: Mary Helen Sprecher
New Bill Could Mean Varsity Sporting Events Would Require Athletic Trainers to be Present in Case of Possible Concussions
Iowa high schools would be required to employ a certified athletic trainer at certain varsity sporting events to identify concussions in student-athletes under legislation considered in the Iowa Senate.
According to an article in Athletic Training Today, each school hosting varsity sports would be required to supply a trainer at those football, wrestling and boys’ and girls’ soccer events, if the bill becomes law.
“We’re trying to protect our student-athletes across the state of Iowa,” said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, a former high school wrestling coach.
Many states are considering similar legislation, but only Massachusetts has a law requiring trainers at high school athletic events, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
Many states have tried and failed to require such measures. In one of the more high-profile cases which became known as the ‘soccer mom lawsuit,’ a measure that would have required medical supervision of all youth soccer games, was thrown out by a judge.
The judge called the suit’s claims, that head injuries in youth soccer were at epidemic levels, ‘incomprehensible.’
Another proposed measure, to require doctors on the sidelines of youth football games in New York, also went down in defeat.
The rise in concussion awareness has led to youth soccer banning heading the ball in 10-and-under play, and to the American Academy of Pediatrics calling for limiting tackling in youth football.
Many national governing bodies and youth sports organizations have set up their own protocolsrequiring a player who may be suffering from a concussion to be taken out of the game and in many cases, not allowed back until cleared by a doctor. Pop Warner, for example, has the ‘When in doubt, sit it out’ motto.
Currently, if Iowa schools are able to provide athletic trainers at athletic events, those trainers have final authority on identifying concussion symptoms and determining whether a student-athlete should be removed from a contest.
When a trainer is not present, a student-athlete may be removed from a contest for a concussion by his or her coach or an official.
Proponents of the Iowa bill say the use of a trained authority figure would strike a balance between that of a coach who might want an athlete to keep playing, or a parent who might be overly worried.
“(The bill would) take the coach out of the uncomfortable position where there might be a conflict of interest and allow a professional to make a decision,” Bowman said.
Alan Beste, executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, which governs boys’ high school sports, said the legislation does not account for other medically trained personnel that schools sometimes staff at athletic events. He also stated that coaches receive training and as a result, are qualified to identify concussions.
If the bill were to become law, it would involve budget changes at the school level. It would cost roughly $2,400 to $3,900 per year, depending on the trainer’s rate, for schools that sponsor all four sports — football, wrestling and boys and girls soccer — to have a certified trainer at those varsity events, according to figures compiled by Doug Struyk, of the Iowa Athletic Trainers’ Society. Struyk used industry rates and schedule data from the governing bodies of Iowa’s high school athletics.
It was unclear whether these costs would be rolled into students’ participation fees or if they would come out of a separate budget.
Troy Kleiss, with the Iowa Athletic Trainers’ Society, said there are not enough trainers in Iowa to meet the demand the legislation would create, but he thinks the market would adjust to meet the need for more trainers.
The bill is eligible for consideration by the Senate’s Education Committee.