NFL Players’ Access to Certified Athletic Trainers in High Schools

_HFS4211I often talk to our Jacksonville Jaguars players about their past experience with injuries and sports medicine care.  From their days playing ball in midget football to the NFL, they’ve had wide-ranging sports medicine experiences from the outstanding treatment to bizarre home remedies.

Fellow Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) members and I collected the statistics on almost 1200 current NFL players’ exposure to certified athletic trainers (ATC) from when the players were in high schools.  I found it interesting how varied their experiences were when it came to the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of sports related injuries during their teenage years.

The Structure

We made the determination that players 25 years old or under to be the “younger” grouping and 26 years old or more to be the “older” players.

Next, within those two age groupings, we surveyed the NFL players to see how many of them had exposure to a certified athletic trainer, part-time or full-time, for their high school practices and/or games.

The Numbers

The Total number of players surveyed:     1161

Players age 26 or higher:     529 or 45.6%

Players age 25 or younger:     632 or 54.4%

Total players who had a high school ATC:     79.7%

Total players who DID NOT have a high school ATC:     20.3%


Players age 26 or higher who had a high school ATC:     383 or 33.0%

Players age 26 or higher who DID NOT have a high school ATC:     146 or 12.6%

Players age 25 or younger who had a high school ATC:     542 or 46.7%

Players age 25 or younger who DID NOT have a high school ATC:     90 or 7.8%

The Questions

This project created some interesting questions when it comes to the impact of a certified athletic trainer on both the short-term and long-term success of an athlete.  These are some of the main questions which arose with this survey and I look forward to hearing the comments on these questions from my readers.

  1. Does the involvement of a certified athletic trainer in the care of a young athlete enhance the long-term success of that athlete?
  2. How beneficial is a certified athletic trainer in preventing injuries that may have otherwise limited the athlete’s ability to earn a scholarship and continue their athletic career to the next level?
  3. How many young athletes, who had no exposure to a certified athletic trainer, had preventable injuries which derailed their ability to reach their potential as an athlete?
  4. How much did the involvement of a certified athletic trainer positively impact the lives and careers of our present NFL players?  In other words, how much did an early exposure to an ATC educate these NFL players on topics such as nutrition, proper strengthening techniques, heat & hydration, staph infections, sports psychology, injury prevention, athletic taping, and injury management contribute to their success?

The Summary

I was not surprised to see that almost 80% of our athletes had a certified athletic trainer in high school.  I did find it interesting that 85.8% of the younger NFL players compared to only 72.4% of the older players had an ATC in high school.

Beyond the numbers and the stats, the best part to come out of this project was the words of overwhelming support, admiration, gratitude and sincere respect these professional athletes had for their high school certified athletic trainers.  They shared stories of how their high school ATC’s changed their lives for the better with their skills, knowledge and compassion.

The stories of these world-class athletes’ beginnings reinforces why so many of us decided to become a certified athletic trainer: to positively enhance the lives of athletes.   To the thousands of ATC’s who have touched the lives of these NFL players:  Mission Accomplished!

Author: Mike Ryan

After 26 seasons as a full-time certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist in the National Football League, Mike Ryan has outstanding first-hand experience. His unique professional and athletic background has sharpened his skills in the arts of sports injury management, elite rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention. Mike is now taking his experience to mainstream America. His mission is simple: Sports Medicine advice that is easy to use and brings fast results. Learn more about Mike Ryan

One thought on “NFL Players’ Access to Certified Athletic Trainers in High Schools”

  1. Mike
    i wonder if some of those “stories” could be captured for use by the NATA or even by the state athletic trainer organizations in one of your players home state to help promote the hiring of AT’s in ALL high schools.

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