Championing Certified Athletic Trainers at Each High School

BY LARRY M. ROZIERS/School Administrator, September 2017

Larry Roziers (third from left) with student athletes in the Duval County, Fla., Public Schools.
An athlete’s bright future can change in a heartbeat from an accidental blow to the head or other serious injury. In working with high school athletes in Florida’s Duval County Public Schools, I was keenly aware of these risks.

Before becoming an assistant superintendent, I served as a coach, athletic director and secondary school principal, and no one knew better than I did that our patchwork of medical coverage at games and practices, especially at the high schools in low-income neighborhoods, was inadequate.

When Nikolai Vitti became superintendent in 2012, I took my concerns to him, and the conversations proved fruitful. Vitti knew the key was to create a sustainable financial plan to support the employment of full-time, certified athletic trainers in 17 high schools. He asked me to take the lead.

Immediately, I convened the significant players, notably two hospital presidents, a foundation president, the executive director of a sports medicine program, the CEO of the city sports council and a representative from the mayor’s office. The group determined the school district would be able to financially support and sustain full-time certified athletic trainers in all high schools with sports programs by 2020-21. The certified athletic trainers would be phased into our schools over the five-year plan, with financial support from public and private sources.

We were fortunate our local NFL franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars, offered us support through a National Football League initiative for sports safety at secondary schools. Local businesses and community leaders followed by providing generous bridge funding. This past March, three major private gifts helped us reach our initial funding goal of $200,000.

Trainer Education
A major component was our commitment to employ certified athletic trainers who had completed advanced training and education. To do so, Jacksonville University established a master’s program in kinesiological sciences in 2015, which has begun to provide our school system with well-trained candidates. These athletic trainers will follow best practices on concussion and head injury protocols, as well as other emergency action plans.

The public/private partnership now serves seven high schools in Duval County. In the last two years, our athletic trainers have documented more than 70 sports-related concussions, 61 episodes of heat stress and more than 42 reports of symptoms that could mimic dangerous cardiac conditions. We are using these data to build prevention strategies to reduce these numbers.

Last month, five additional certified athletic trainers were set to join the program, raising our number of athletic trainers to 12, all assigned to the district’s high schools with the greatest demand. The program is on track to assign a trainer at each site and to ensure student-athletes have access to professionals who can treat injuries and create a safer playing environment.

LARRY ROZIERS retired in June as assistant superintendent of family and community engagement in Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla. E-mail:

Additional Resources
A 2015 study by the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut reported 37 percent of public secondary schools in the country employ a full-time athletic trainer, compared to just 28 percent in private secondary schools. The research also found 70 percent of public secondary schools provide some form of athletic training services, compared to 58 percent of nonpublic schools.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s website and its Journal of Athletic Training carry an array of resources relating to the employment and certification of school-based trainers as well as information on sports-related concussions, one of the most complex injuries in sports medicine.

The journal’s March 2017 issue focused on concussions. One article, “Perfect Storm,” by Brian Hainline and Richard Ellenbogen, explains the limited understanding of concussion by educators and other professionals. An article by attorneys Steven Pachman and Adia Lamba discussed “Legal Aspects of Concussion: The Ever-Evolving Standard of Care.”