California Lawmakers Consider Bill to License Athletic Trainers

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Photo courtesy of Tim Reynolds

San Juan Hills Head Athletic Trainer Micah Ohlen helps Senior Max Difilippo off the field following a knee injury. While Micah is certified himself, he is concerned about California’s lack of a regulating and licensing body for Athletic Trainers.

Ben Bartlett, Sports Editor

When California lawmakers return to Sacramento — post-Coronavirus — they will vote on whether or not to license athletic trainers in the state. 

Athletic trainers are medical professionals who handle emergencies and injuries at sporting events. Micah Ohlen is the head athletic trainer at San Juan Hills. However, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, 48.5% of California high schools do not have an athletic trainer onsite.

Athletic trainers also offer day to day treatment for athletes on campus, provide coaches with a list of athletes medically eligible to compete, and maintain records of injuries, along with numerous other responsibilities.

The more that people can hear about the positive influence athletic trainers have, the more support athletic trainers will get”

— Micah Ohlen

Measure AB-1665 would require California to join every other state and regulate athletic training. In all other states, the Board of Certification (BOC) — a nonprofit credentialing organization — establishes the requirements and standards of practice for Athletic Trainers.

Because California does not regulate the profession of athletic training, there are no current legal guidelines for what an athletic trainer is permitted to do. There is also no licensing process in California, meaning anyone can call themselves an “athletic trainer” with no requirement of education or certification. Currently, 13% of “athletic trainers” working in California do not have proper certification. 

The present system also allows no way of filing a complaint against an athletic trainer. Without this, schools themselves could be found liable. 

“[AB-1665] would ensure that students are being cared for by licensed and regulated athletic trainers, not just any person. Just as nurses and doctors are recognized for their education and licenses, athletic trainers would be recognized the same. This would also help resolve the issue of not every high school having an athletic trainer, let alone a full-time [athletic trainer],” said Micah Ohlen, SJHHS head athletic trainer and teacher.

California’s lack of regulation also creates problems for teams who travel out of state for events. Many California athletic trainers may be unable to practice in nearby states due to differing requirements.

Measure AB-1665 was introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Rob Bonta of Oakland on February 24, 2020. While it is unlikely that it will be passed during the current period of uncertainty due to the Coronavirus, proponents of the bill still encourage students and parents to show their support for the measure.

“Share success stories [that show] the great experiences you have had with athletic trainers and how they have properly managed an injury. The more that people can hear about the positive influence athletic trainers have, the more support athletic trainers will get,” said Ohlen.