HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Hillsborough County School Board voted on Tuesday to place certified athletic trainers in all high schools.
The move comes after an incoming freshman died after collapsing during football conditioning drills at Middleton High school in June.
According to police, the teen, 14-year-old Hezekiah Walters, collapsed when the team was 30 to 40 minutes into conditioning drills, which included weightlifting, wind sprints and water breaks.
Jeff Eakins, Hillsborough County’s superintendent, said an internal investigation found incomplete records and athlete clearance forms for Walters. He also says on the day of his death, athletes were told to walk, not run, and have water breaks every 10 minutes.
Certified Athletic Trainers from the University of South Florida SMART Institute (USF), Select Physical Therapy, and PT Solutions Holdings, LLC. will provide certified athletic trainer services to each Hillsborough County Public High School, according to school records.
Lanness Robinson, The Director of Athletics for Hillsborough County Public Schools, said some high schools already have an athletic trainer. After school board approval, every high school will now have a trainer.
The district will pay $270,000 with the private companies picking up the remaining cost.
"The average athletic trainer, the cost for that position is between $40,000-$50,000 so our partners are definitely stepping up and taking care the brunt of the cost," said Lanness Robinson.
Only about one-third of high schools In the United States have full-time athletic trainers, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion is now pushing for all high schools to hire a full-time athletic trainer.
1. Athletic trainers get athletes ready for the season
They help coordinate the pre-participation physical exams. They make sure each athlete has been medically cleared to participate in sports. They can also help arrange follow-up with specialists if abnormal findings are found on an athlete’s exam.
2. Athletic trainers assist athletes as they return to play
Not only can they help an athlete with exercises and other parts of the rehabilitation process, but they can communicate with orthopedic surgeons and doctors to ensure an athlete progresses through an appropriate return-to-play program safely.
3. Athletic trainers prepare athletes for hot weather
They work with coaches to design summer practice schedules to get young athletes ready for hot and humid conditions. They monitor the conditions and advocate for canceling games and practices in extreme temperatures and humidity. They also monitor athletes for signs and symptoms of heat illness and, if symptoms are identified, start body cooling and other treatments to prevent heat stroke.
4. Athletic trainers help with concussion evaluation and management
They can administer baseline concussion tests to athletes before the season. They watch for concussed athletes during games and practices and perform concussion assessments to determine if they can return to play. They can coordinate evaluation by a physician for treatment and return to sports after a concussion as well.
5. Athletic trainers are invaluable in the event of sports emergencies
They coordinate and implement emergency action plans. They ensure any necessary medical equipment is available, including automated external defibrillators (AEDs), spine boards, cervical collars, and much more.
The effectiveness of this agreement with the companies providing certified athletic trainer services to Hillsborough County Schools will be evaluated by the Director of Athletics and school personnel, school records show.