Student-athlete unrest reached unprecedented levels recently culminating in the practice and game boycott by the Grambling State football team which made national headlines. Unfortunately, these protests failed to point out what may be the most serious NCAA athlete health-related void permeating most levels of intercollegiate athletics – the egregious inadequacy of training and medical staff at most schools. As a result, the rendering of immediate and ongoing diagnosis, treatment, and care of all levels of injuries and health hazards is often highly inadequate.
Medical staffing and the related level of care shortfall is not only overlooked by college athletes and their advocacy groups, but the lack of attention to it by the NCAA and individual schools’ borders on negligence. High School athletes and their parents need to take into consideration and address these issues during their school evaluations in the recruiting process. Evaluating the level of each school’s diligence and commitment to medial staff, care, and injury prevention should be as high on your list of priorities as the school’s athletic and academic resources, success, and support.
The following questionnaire/checklist would be a good starting point in your evaluation:
- Have the college provide a list of certified training and medical staff and physicians as well as their level of presence and coverage per sport and season.
- Does the school implement an injury prevention component through its strength and conditioning, and preventative care programs?
- What level of coverage will be provided by the school’s health insurance for athletes’ injuries and will you be responsible for bearing any financial burden or medical choices for certain injuries?
- Does the school have plans and protocols to treat, assess, and prevent common serious issues such as concussion and sudden cardiac arrest (a leading cause of death for young athletes)?
- What emergency equipment (such as an automatic defibrillator) is available at each venue? Is there am EMT staff present at all of your sport’s contests? Where is the nearest hospital located, and how will an ambulance get to an injured student-athlete as fast as possible, if necessary?
It is imperative to have this base information in order to assess each school’s capability and commitment to adequate medical and training staffing and care. Remember, they are asking you to commit your best efforts to developing and contributing to their school and program as a student-athlete. Schools should likewise be committed to providing the medical resources to reciprocate your level of commitment and protect your athletic career and future quality of life.
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