Athletic trainers tend to go unlauded, so it’s always nice when people recognize their hard and tireless work. Athletic trainer’s save lives, and the Minnesota Vikings is acknowledging this fact by providing athletic trainers for more than 500 football players at 13 Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota high schools. The Vikings have teamed with TRIA Orthopedic Center to provide the athletic training staff who will strive to reduce injury rates and make the proper return-to-play calls following injuries for young athletes. Many of TRIA’s doctors work as team physicians for the Vikings and other Minnesota professional sports teams, and the company employs over 40 orthopedic physicians who work in a variety of specialities.
The NFL foundation and the Minnesota Vikings will fund the program with a matching $25,000 donation for a total of $50,000. The program will also provide free transportation via the Vikings’ team car service for players and parents who need transportation to and from doctors appointments.
The Vikings’ own athletic trainer, Eric Sugarman, said the following in regards to the program, “We are not only going to cover varsity football games — we are going to cover JV games, ninth grade games, we are going to cover preseason practices and practices during the season. (It’s) care that these kids have never had. We hope that this is care that they are going to expect to get and it will be very beneficial. Nearly 50 percent of high schools in our country do not have a full time certified athletic trainer. This is a very, very big task and a very important thing that we are doing.”
Sugarman went on to say, “Football in our country, football in our communities, the health and safety of players is a paramount and this is what this is all about. As an athletic trainer at heart — you guys know I pound my chest over this; I’m very proud to be an athletic trainer. I’m more than thrilled to be one of the first teams to stand up here and have acted on this grant initiative and to be able to make this happen for the kids in our community that want to play this great sport known as football.”
This is certainly true. Football is such a major part of our country, and we need to take the proper precautions to protect the players we love to watch and support. The NFL has made significant strides to study the long-term effects of concussions for its players and take the proper steps to address how concussions and other injuries should be handled in the future. The NFL announced an initiative earlier this summer to provide athletic trainers to underserved high schools, but it’s great news to see an actual major sports team stepping up to the plate to use their platform to not only speak but fund the use of athletic trainers in youth sports.
The Vikings announcement comes right on the heels of St. Louis University announcing its plans to bring more athletic trainers to St. Louis high schools. Following the collapse of a 13-year old Missouri boy at football practice, witnesses credited the athletic trainer’s quick action and professional training with saving his life. Since then, St. Louis University and the local community has decided to work together to make athletic trainers a mainstay at all local high schools in St. Louis. The program has already staffed athletic trainers at two catholic schools in the area.
Yet and still, fewer than 40 percent of secondary high schools in America have access to an athletic trainer, but initiatives like these are doing all they can to get that number where it needs to be –100 percent.
Photo Credit: US Army on Flickr