One of the best lines of defense in preventing youth sports injuries are certified athletic trainers, per the American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. An athletic trainer is someone who is certified and licensed in the health care field of sports medicine, and has been recognized by the American Medical Association as an allied health care professional since 1990. Portland injury lawyers in Maine know that while it’s generally difficult to hold a school district liable for an athlete injury, courts have identified a number of areas of potential liability in the context of organized athletic events at the high school level.
A 1997 ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in Searles v. Trustees held that colleges, private schools and public schools owe a legal duty to exercise reasonable care toward their students. This duty encompasses the responsibility of coaches and athletic trainers to exercise reasonable care for the health and safety of their students, which means conforming to the standard of care required of an ordinary and careful trainer.
But what if there is no certified athletic trainer at the school? A recent report by The Portland Press Herald revealed Maine is behind other states in New England and nationally for hiring athletic trainers to help prevent serious student injury. Of 143 public and private high schools in the state, only 51 have full-time athletic trainers attending after-school practices (where 40 percent of student athlete injuries happen) and games. The problem is most acute in school districts that are rural because they lack funding and also student participation is lower. Of the 33 schools that don’t have an athletic trainer, sports enrollment is at less than 150 each.