Following years of bipartisan work between members of Congress, President Trump signed new legislation that greatly improves legal protections for athletic trainers and other sports medicine professionals when traveling outside of their state of licensure to provide care to athletes.
The bill, named the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act, became law Oct. 5. It was heavily endorsed by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), the NCAA and every major American professional sports league, and is believed to be a critical step forward in providing the necessary health care to high school and collegiate level athletes.
But there’s one state that will not benefit from the new bill as much as the 49 others, and it’s California.
The state remains alone in not regulating and licensing the athletic training profession, and because athletic trainers in the state aren’t required to be licensed, the trainers that are not will not benefit from the legal protections the new law ensures.
That also means that, if not licensed, a trainer cannot travel outside of the state with their school for a sporting event, as occasionally required, and that puts the health and safety of the athletes a trainer oversees at risk in those situations.
“California’s the one state that doesn’t regulate the profession and thinks that it’s OK for anybody to be involved in the health care of athletes and other patients,” said Mike Chisar, the chair of governmental affairs with the California Athletic Trainer’s Association.
The law will, however, benefit licensed trainers in California who travel out of the state for competitions with their school. But according to date provided by the California Interscholastic Federation, more than 150 public high schools in the state do not have a certified athletic trainer on campus, and the athletes at those schools are left to be unsupervised when traveling out of state.
“Somebody from the state of California is just going to fly under the radar like they always have,” said Patty Curtiss, a certified athletic trainer who has previously worked with student-athletes at College of the Desert. “That’s how I would see that.”
Though it isn’t often that high schools travel out of state for competition, it is becoming more common. Both Palm Springs and Palm Desert high schools traveled to Arizona for non-league football games this season, and Xavier Prep has traveled to Washington for a game within the last few years.
Those schools are among the roughly 25 percent of schools in California, according to CIF data, that do have a full-time athletic trainers on campus. Other schools have part-time trainers or use one who is not certified. Others have no trainers on campus to oversee athletes at sporting events and monitor those who’ve sustained injuries.