Some wonder why hiring high school athletic trainers isn’t just the cost of doing business

January 6, 2020
Chris Renkel & Stephanie Kuzydym-WKRC (Cincinnati, OH)

University of Cincinnati senior Paige Lohorn spends her days like most college students: balancing the challenges of life, classes and a part-time job that’s a little demanding.

Lohorn is a student athletic trainer at Wyoming High School.

“We’re there all night until practice ends,” Lohorn said.

She hopes to become a full-time athletic trainer after she graduates in May.

Schools like UC, Mount St. Joseph, Xavier and 40 other colleges and universities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana offer accredited programs, but the journey to the sidelines takes constant work, including 50 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain certification.

Every state except California requires athletic trainers to be state licensed.

Tom Herrmann is the program director for UC’s academic athletic training program. He was the program’s first graduate when it was an internship program in 1977.

Since, UC’s program transitioned from an academic minor to an undergraduate minor to its current transition to a professional graduate program. The program has more than 400 alumni, including athletic trainers from here in Cincinnati to Texas A&M University.

“At its absolute simplest,” Herrmann said, “the value of having someone who knows what to do at the moment something happens improves every aspect of what comes after that.”

If only 37 percent of high schools nationally have a full-time athletic trainer, where are they all going? To job openings at pro, collegiate and international sports leagues, which makes Herrmann wonder why hiring high school athletic trainers isn’t just the cost of doing business.

“No other endeavor ignores a cost of doing business because they simply think it’s unnecessary,” Herrmann said of the lack of high schools hiring athletic trainers. “The NCAA says it’s necessary. The IOC says it’s necessary. FIFA says it’s necessary. The NFL says it’s necessary. The NBA says it’s necessary.”

Even NASCAR, the Cincinnati Ballet and the U.S. military have athletic trainers.

“If every organization says it’s necessary and best practices,” Herrmann said, “how is it not necessary and best practices at high schools? The logic of it escapes me a little bit, but I’m biased.”

By 2022, all academic athletic training programs will transition to master’s programs.

What keeps Lohorn motivated to stay on track is she knows the dangers of not having an athletic trainer. When she tore her ACL playing basketball in high school, there wasn’t one on site.

“It just snapped,” Lohorn said. “I didn’t know what it was, so I just kind of iced it. My coach didn’t really know what to do.”

Eight years later, that moment fuels her journey to be there for others.

As the demand for athletic trainers continues to grow, more graduates like Lohorn will be needed at the high school level.

“We always sort of argued for most of my professional life that the bulk of the jobs will eventually land in secondary schools,” Herrmann said, “because that’s where the bulk of this activity occurs. Eventually, the logic of having us in a secondary school will just be so clear that it’ll happen, but we’ve been arguing that it is so clear that it should have been happening for all of my professional life.”

Ohio has more accredited academic programs for athletic training than any other state.

Numbers from the state licensing board shows that 2,985 athletic trainers were licensed in 2018. That’s a 76.7% increase in the last decade.

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