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OC High Schools Need Certified Athletic Trainers

  • Category: Sports Medicine
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Michael Shepard, MD
OC High Schools Need Certified Athletic Trainers

There is perhaps no other community touchstone than that of a Friday night high school football game in southern California. The noise generated from the home and visiting teams’ fans, parents, teachers, players, and the bands can be quite deafening. Except when I walk on the football field. Sometimes it is so silent you can hear a pin drop.

For more than two decades, I’ve volunteered to stand on the sidelines and help injured players at Servite High School, many other high schools and community colleges. I was a high school athlete once and now that I’m an orthopedic surgeon, I saw the weekly commitment as me giving back to my community, students, and my profession. Having a sports injury professional on the field can make a difference and I take pride in my ability to help when players get hurt, injured, or suffer some sort of trauma.

There are doctors and athletic trainers like me up and down the state of California, who volunteer to be there each Thursday or Friday night. As we’ve all witnessed, athletic trainers do more than treat the injured; they save lives. One only needs to peruse the news to see the life-altering on-field or court tragedies miraculously averted, and sadly, sometimes not.

There are no athletic trainers at some OC high schools. It is not a requirement. Remarkably, California is the only state in the nation that does not certify athletic trainers. Many states require an athletic trainer with certification (ATC) at every high school for safety. There are about 800,000 high school athletes in California and 70 percent of them compete without a certified athletic trainer present.

Once again, our state has a bill (AB 796) moving through the state legislature that would require anyone who calls themselves an athletic trainer to register with the state and become health care providers. Previously, bills such as this one has passed through the state legislation process only to be vetoed by Governors Brown and Newsome. God only knows why. The bill is supported by almost every medical and consumer advocacy group in the state.

Our players need someone to be on the field, whether it is an athletic trainer or physician, to help treat buckled knees, head injuries or worse. We need the roar of the crowd to be heard on this important issue.


(Michael Shepard, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon in Orange County at Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine and served as a team physician for the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim.)