Speak Out: Should Montgomery County Spend $500,000 On Student Athletic Trainers?

Tell us what you think.

It’s budget season in Montgomery County, and at least one local parent wants to know what county leadership is doing to protect students—protection that can’t come from armed guards and locked doors. 

Football season is recently concluded, hockey season is underway and sporting concussions continue to pose health risks to high school, college and pro athletes across the country. While state and county lawmakers have made strides in requiring concussion-training for high school coaches, local advocate and Patch blogger Tom Hearn says it’s not enough.

Hearn, whose own son sustained a concussion playing JV football at Whitman High School in 2011, urges the county school board to include $500,000 in funding for high school athletic trainers in the fiscal 2014 operating budget request. County schools Superintendent Joshua Starr has already requested $75,000 in the new budget go to district-wide baseline concussion testing.

“The lack of certified athletic trainers at MCPS high schools represents a serious public safety issue,” Hearn said in testimony to the school board on Jan. 17. “Some concussion professionals say that if you can’t afford to have athletic trainers, maybe you can’t afford to have a sports program." 

Hearn argues that certified athletic trainers have four years of study at an accredited college and national certification, giving them a deeper knowledge about concussions and other sports injuries than coaches typically have. Having a certified trainer on staff to maintain detailed records of student injuries and health needs would also allow coaches to get back to what they do best – coaching, Hearn said.

Research found 60,000 high school and college athletes suffer concussions each year from contact sports, according to a WBAL-TV report. The injury isn’t just a simple bump on the head.

Kristen Sheely, of Germantown, lost her 22-year-old son Derek after he sustained a head injury during football practice at Frostburg State University in August 2011.

Since Derek’s passing, his parents founded the Derek Sheely Foundation and have been pressing the state for changes to protect student-athletes. In October, Northwest High School unveiled a memorial honoring thier fallen Janguar.

Nine Montgomery County high schools—Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair, Winston Churchill, Damascus, Walter Johnson, Quince Orchard, Richard Montgomery, Walt Whitman and Thomas S. Wootton—offer baseline testing to at least some of their student athletes, MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig told Patch in September.

The computerized tests measure things like memory and reaction times before and after an injury, and help determine whether it is safe for athletes to return to their sports.

Coaches are required to take a 20-minute online concussion training class each year, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School athletic director Jim Tapley, told Patch in August.

Districts surrounding Montgomery County have certified trainers on staff for schools, while Montgomery County has none, Hearn said.

Should the Montgomery County budget include funding for athletic trainers in schools? Tell us in the comments.


Patch Editor Tiffany Arnold contributed to this story


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