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Bill would require trainer at Iowa varsity sporting events to identify concussions

Trainers seen as more neutral than coaches, sponsor says

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DES MOINES — Iowa high schools would be required to employ a certified athletic trainer at certain varsity sporting events to identify concussions in student-athletes under legislation that advanced Wednesday in the Iowa Senate.

The host school would be required to supply a trainer at all varsity football, wrestling and boys and girls soccer events, according to the bill.

“We’re trying to protect our student-athletes across the state of Iowa,” said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, a former high school wrestling coach.

Currently, if schools are able to provide athletic trainers at athletic events, those trainers have final authority on identifying concussion symptoms and determining whether a student-athlete should be removed from a contest.

When a trainer is not present, a student-athlete may be removed from a contest for a concussion by his or her coach or an official.

Bowman said trainers are preferable because they are professionally trained to identify and treat concussions and are not potentially motivated to allow an injured student-athlete to remain in a contest for competitive reasons.

“(The bill would) take the coach out of the uncomfortable position where there might be a conflict of interest and allow a professional to make a decision,” Bowman said.

Bowman acknowledged potential concern from schools with a mandate that would create costs.

It would cost roughly $2,400 to $3,900 per year, depending on the trainer’s rate, for schools that sponsor all four sports — football, wrestling and boys and girls soccer — to have a certified trainer at those varsity events, according to figures compiled by Doug Struyk, of the Iowa Athletic Trainers’ Society. Struyk used industry rates and schedule data from the governing bodies of Iowa’s high school athletics.

Troy Kleiss, with the Iowa Athletic Trainers’ Society, said there are not enough trainers in Iowa to meet the demand the legislation would create, but he thinks the market would adjust to meet the need for more trainers.

The legislation would encourage — but not require — schools to have a trainer at all other sporting events.

The bill advanced Wednesday and is eligible to be considered by the Senate’s Education Committee.

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