I'm a big sports fan. I care about wins and losses.
I also think I get it. Sports, especially for youth, is so much more than winning and losing. I haven't written two words about building consolidation or sports consolidation, for that matter, but I'm a firm believer that academics take priority. If it comes down to school books or a bag of baseballs, the choice is obvious.
But I heard something on Thursday night that scared me half to death.
The school board voted against paying for the two certified athletic trainers that have been contracted through the hospital.
It will save them over $100,000.
Who will it save?
Do this for me, please: Just Google on the Internet the words, "High school player dies from concussion." The chilling articles pop right up, and concussions have severely impacted high school athletes in our own county just in the past year.
"My son was lucky because he can walk and he can think," his mother told the school board on Thursday. Her son was transferred to Hamot in Erie this past fall after a head injury in a football game.
The talk at Thursday's special meeting of the school board of directors swayed to where they would be able to put that $100,000 - back into education, or to keep it in the sports budget to ensure booster groups now have less to raise to keep their programs afloat.
"I think it's morally reprehensible that you would have any sort of sports program without athletic trainers," one man told the board.
I agree. If you are going to continue with four sports programs - as they've decided they are without fully funding them - then you have to do it the right way. The priority then becomes the safety of the kids - especially in this day and age of concussion awareness.
I don't think the board is fully aware of what these certified athletic trainers are responsible for, nor are they aware of the can of worms they just opened by getting rid of them.
Someone has to attend to the athletes.
The PA House recently passed legislation stating that injured athletes may only return to a game with clearance from an appropriate medical professional - a licensed physician trained in evaluating and managing concussions, or a certified athletic trainer (ATC) under the direction of a licensed physician.
Not a coach.
PIAA guidelines state a licensed physician or certified athletic trainer has to be within five minutes of a football or wrestling contest, and that's not to mention practices.
There were two certified athletic trainers before for four county high schools. Now, none for four.
Good luck lining up voluntary licensed physicians for every required event.
A weight control program is also required for all wrestlers in the state - this will now have to be hired out.
Concussion ImPACT software is currently implemented in our school district to help provide a safe return to play. Every athlete in the county is tested for a baseline result - and it takes about a half-hour per athlete at the beginning of each season. After an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion, they have to retake this test until they are back to their baseline results, and also get cleared by a licensed physician or athletic trainer.
With no ATC in the district to decipher the results, this software will no longer be very useful.
The athletic trainers helped prevent, recognize with their own eyes, and treat injuries, and were readily accessible and recognizable to county athletes - both in and out of schools. Safety was priority number one.
I understand the position the board is in, but this is a huge loss.
The board ultimately conveyed that it's $100,000 less boosters will have to raise to come up with the sports budget shortfall.
At what cost?
If you can't afford to have certified athletic trainers, then you can't afford to have sports as we know it.