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PREP EXTRA / A weekly look at the high school sports
scene in the Southland

Handled With Care

Programs Provide Athletic Trainers to High Schools for Medical Assistance


Brian Chavarin stands on the sidelines at high school football games, hoping coaches and administrators never look his way.

Chavarin, a certified athletic trainer, is on site to provide preventive care and attend to injuries.

"A perfect day as a trainer is when we don't walk on the field at all," Chavarin says.

Chavarin, 27, is director of the "Excellence in Athletics" program at USC University Hospital, a two-year-old program that provides athletic trainers on a part-time basis to 16 schools in the Los Angeles area. The program is one of several in the Southland that are trying to accommodate the needs of high school athletes in school districts that either do not have the funding for or choose not to fund athletic training positions.

"There is no qualification procedure for schools to be involved in our program other than they need the services," Chavarin said. "As long as we can get to [the schools] in a timely fashion, they're eligible."

The USC program is similar to the Manhattan Beach-based "Training to Win" program, which began in 1994 at Daniel Freeman Hospital and serves 25 area schools. Both programs offer supplementary insurance coverage to athletes at no cost to the athlete or family.

The S.P.O.R.T. Clinic in Riverside serves 40 schools in the Inland Empire in a similar capacity but does not yet offer the insurance component.

All three programs supply contracted schools with certified trainers during the week and run free injury-evaluation clinics on Saturday mornings.

"It's a great concept," said Teri Brown, athletic director at Jefferson High, which participates in the USC program. "To have access to the facilities and to have a trainer here at the school for 10 hours a week is invaluable."

Certified athletic trainers must have a bachelor's degree in athletic training or a related field. They also must complete an extensive internship under the supervision of a certified trainer before they are eligible to sit for a written, oral and practical exam to gain certification.

Hawaii is the only state that requires every high school to have a full-time trainer, said Teresa Foster Welch of the Dallas-based National Athletic Trainers Assn. The District of Columbia also budgets for full-time trainers as do most schools in Texas, Florida and Michigan.

In California, public high schools with full-time trainers are the exception rather than the rule.

"We've had our constituency talking for years about the state legislature mandating it," said Dean Crowley, Southern Section Commissioner. "If you're going to do that, you have to have the money to pay for it."

The Chino Valley Unified School District is one of the few districts that employs full-time trainers at each of its high schools--Ayala, Chino and Don Lugo.

Mike West, the trainer at Ayala, provides care for the school's athletes and also runs a vocational program that includes 20 high school and two college students.

The Huntington Beach Unified School District was among the first in Southern California to employ full-time trainers. However, declining enrollments in the 1980s and early '90s coupled with budget cuts forced the district to scale back the program to part-time status, said John Myers, the district's assistant superintendent of educational services. Today, Huntington Beach, Marina, Westminster, Fountain Valley, Edison and Ocean View each get the services of a district-employed trainer 39 hours per month.

"Booster donations help fund additional hours," Myers said. "That's important because most of our money is coming in earmarked. There's extra funding for textbooks. Extra money for science laboratory equipment. But the general fund money is more limited. It's difficult to reinstate everything."

Many schools in the Southland have nothing to reinstate. Coaches are responsible for first aid, taping and, in some cases, evaluating injuries. That was part of the impetus for starting "Training to Win," said Jill Sleight, who began the program with Dr. Keith Feder.

"I had been working in Michigan, where the high school trainer was the gatekeeper over athletic injuries," said Sleight, whose program is now affiliated with the West Coast Sports Medicine Foundation and Centinela Hospital in Inglewood.

"Here in Southern California, there wasn't anything like that. We continually expect coaches to wear all these hats. And the medical hat isn't one that they should have to wear, especially in the middle of a game."

The American Medical Assn. apparently feels the same way. Last July, the AMA adopted a policy calling for certified athletic trainers in all high schools.

There is also a bill before the California state legislature seeking funding for a three-year high school injury study.

Chavarin and Sleight are encouraged by those actions and by school districts in Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, El Segundo and Santa Monica that have begun programs to support athletic trainers at their schools.

Chavarin said he is working with the City Section and the Los Angeles Unified School District to find ways to expand the USC program next year.

"Quality medical care is something all high school athletes deserve," Chavarin said. "As long as the service is needed, we hope to be there."


Injury Clinics

The following facilities offer free injury evaluation services for high school athletes:

* Excellence in Athletics

USC University Hospital

Center for Athletic Medicine

1500 San Pablo St.

Los Angeles

Phone: (800) 872-2273

Hours: Saturday, 9-11 a.m.


Training to Win

Center for Athletic Medicine

1200 Rosecrans Ave.

Manhattan Beach

Phone: (310) 726-0750

Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon.


S.P.O.R.T. Clinic

4444 Magnolia Ave.


Phone: (909) 274-3535

Hours: Monday-Friday 6-8 a.m., noon-1 p.m., Saturday, 9-10:30 a.m.

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