LOS ANGELES — California has more than 750,000 high school student athletes, but who’s watching out for their health and well-being?
That’s the question some lawmakers are asking as California is the only state in the country that doesn’t regulate who can call themselves an athletic trainer. That means many of them might not have the expertise necessary to protect student athletes.
“The practice of employing untrained and unqualified athletic trainers puts our student athletes at risk,” said Assemblymember Akilah Weber of San Diego, who is pushing for Assembly Bill 796 (AB 796), which would require anyone who calls himself or herself an athletic trainer to register with the California Department of Consumer Affairs and have nationwide certification.
“They can recognize signs of fatigue, identify risk factors with regards to injuries and illness and intervene in emergency situations,” said Nick Harvey with the California Athletic Trainers’ Association.
The issue is being pushed just months after an outpouring of support for 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who collapsed during a game against the Cincinatti Bengals last season. Terrified teammates and fans watched as emergency workers shocked him back to life using a defibrillator and performed CPR.
Officials said the quick actions of the team’s athletic trainer contributed to saving his life.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Los Angeles Rams Vice President of Sports Medicine Reggie Scott also spoke in favor of AB 796.
“It creates a legal framework by which we can guarantee that our athletes are receiving the best medical care possible,” he said.
Many school districts across California have certified athletic trainers, but Weber said districts in low-income communities are usually at a disadvantage.
“For example, in San Diego where I represent, we have 63% of athletic trainers are certified nationally. In Los Angeles, it’s 4.8%,” she said.
So will this become law? AB 796 passed out of an assembly committee on Tuesday, but there are still several hurdles left. If it makes it through the state legislature, it would need to be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.