According to a survey released by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, some college coaches are wielding a power opposite medical staffs, deterring the latter’s purpose.
In it, roughly 19% of collegiate athletic trainers claimed coaches would play an athlete those with a background in medicine labeled “medically out of participation.”
“To think that we’re in 2019 and that would still happen is really concerning,” NATA president Tory Lindley said of the results, per ESPN.com’s Paula Lavigne. “It should be concerning for everyone involved in that institution.”
Coinciding data suggest other nefarious situations.
Elsewhere in the survey, 36% of those involved alleged coaches have too much power in how medical staffs are operating, directly influencing who is hired and fired from medical staffs.
Furthermore, of the athletic trainers who claim the previous statement is common, 58% went on to say they felt a coach or administrator pressured them to generate a decision “not in the best interest of a student-athlete’s health.”
It’s certainly worth noting the latest report from the NATA comes about three years after the NCAA passed legislation specifically meant to stop coaches from having any say over medical staffs’ rulings on the health of players.
According to the data, what’s happening, at least with some coaches, remains the opposite.
Starting in August, newer NCAA legislation will be in place, hopefully helping to offset the survey’s troubling findings. As an example, strength and conditioning coaches, usually considered part of traditional coaching staffs, will now directly report to sports performance or medicine supervisors as opposed to the head coach.
There’s been a drastic increase in strength and conditioning coach salaries, with some making upward of $500,000. While needing certifications, they tend to be less regulated than athletic trainers, not needing any licencing as medical professionals.
Money is historically known to influence decisions, in every direction, regardless of ethical convictions or general human decency.
College football and basketball, the two “money-sports” universities often rely on for a steady flow of cash, are high stake affairs. With premiere coaches being paid more than ever before, forcing an atmosphere of instantaneous results, the pressure a coach might be under relative to winning games could result in players feeling the repercussions.
Murphy Grant, chairman of NATA’s Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine, is worried not only about the increased demands athletes currently face, but how athletic training staffs have to operate with coaches hovering over their shoulders.
“As those stresses get high, so does the intensity of training, so do some of the health issues that we’re dealing with,” Grant said. “From an athletic training standpoint, we want to make sure that we’re providing that quality care without having to look over our shoulders on what’s going on or feeling any type of pressure.”
One of they issues at hand is the clout a college coach has, especially over those who are on medical staffs.
“A coach should not have any type of an opportunity to provide an opinion on whether or not those decisions are being made correctly, Lindley said. “They lack the medical expertise to provide an opinion.”
Over the years, there’s been numerous headline-grabbing incidents involving coaches ignoring the safety of their players in the name of working hard or toughing through it. As of September 2018, 30 deaths were reported in collegiate football alone, including a Garden City Community College football player who died of heatstroke while at practice.
Universities are obligated to report any violations to the NCAA. If any of the survey is believed, it’s clearly not working in practice as much as it did in theory.
Moreover, the people the rules were put into place to govern, the coaches, are the ones preventing the violations from being reported since some of them have a direct say in the employment practices of medical staff, leaving even fewer safeguards for athletes from those with absolute, unchecked power.
Editor’s note: This column first appeared on Forbes, but has been republished under the original author’s name at CBBToday thanks to the publisher-contributor agreement.
Joseph Nardone has covered college basketball for nearly a decade at various outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
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