Local News

Funding could scuttle proposal for high school trainers

Posted December 3, 2008
Updated December 4, 2008

— Members of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association said Wednesday they need more time to review a proposal that high schools be required to have certified athletic trainers on staff.

The proposal at the NCHSAA's annual meeting came after the deaths of three North Carolina high school football players in recent months, two of whom died from head injuries.

In October, a panel of sports medicine experts said that any high school athlete suspected of suffering a concussion must be cleared by a physician before he or she can play or practice.

The association's medical committee also established a task force to determine whether high schools should be required to have certified athletic trainers on staff. The group recommended that all high schools have a trainer by August 2011.

Members of the NCHSAA board said they wanted lawmakers, the state Board of Education, the state Department of Public Instruction, state associations of school boards and school administrators and legal counsel to review the proposal before they acted on it.

The board plans to meet again in February with representatives of the other groups to discuss the idea.

"There's no doubt that having that licensed athletic trainer ... is certainly the way we want to go," board member Bobby Guthrie said.

Schools now must have a first responder trained in CPR and first aid on staff. Some have said that training isn't enough to prevent another sports-related death, while others said hiring certified athletic trainers would be too expensive for some schools.

The trainer requirement would initially cost $18 million, but the annual cost of having the trainers on every high school's staff was unclear Wednesday.

The NCHSAA wants the state to pick up the cost of hiring trainers, but a growing state budget deficit that has led to cuts in most state agencies makes that unlikely now.

Lawmakers on Wednesday discussed a proposal to help teachers become certified as athletic trainers, but they took no action.

"I have looked at the circumstances, and I really think that at least two of the three deaths that occurred could have been prevented," Al Proctor, of the North Carolina Sports Medicine Foundation, told the legislative panel.

Atlas Fraley, 17, of Chapel Hill High School, Juquan Waller, 17, of J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, and Matt Gfeller, 15, of Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, died in August and September.

Fraley’s parents found him unresponsive on the evening of Aug. 12 at the family’s home, hours after he had participated in a football scrimmage.

An autopsy report hasn't been completed, but the NCHSAA report noted he collapsed from heat exhaustion.

Fraley called 911 that afternoon and said he felt dehydrated. Paramedics were sent to his home, but he wasn't taken to a hospital for treatment.

Both Orange County EMS and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are investigating the circumstances surrounding Fraley's death. Neither agency has disclosed yet what it has found.

Gfeller died Aug. 24, two days after a hit that he took in a game against Greensboro Page High School led to cranial bleeding.

Waller, a junior running back, left the field after being tackled in a game and then collapsed on the sideline. He was taken to Pitt Memorial Hospital, where he was placed on life support. He died on Sept. 20.

He had been hit in practice two days before the game and suffered a mild concussion, and a medical examiner determined the cause of death to be "second-impact syndrome," in which a person receives two or more blows to the head in a short period.

Chapel Hill High had an athletic trainer on duty the day Fraley died, officials said. Most Wake County schools also have trainers on staff already.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • tarheelalum Dec 4, 2008

    How does it take FOUR MONTHS to complete an autopsy involving a high-profile death in the exact same city as the State ME. Also, how can the investigation of the EMT response go on for FOUR MONTHS without yielding any info. at all? If the school CHOOSES not to budget for a certified AT then they should simply be prevented from engaging in any contact sports programming. That could potentially lead to a detrimental decrease in sports offered though so perhaps the State should offer a supplement or incentive.

  • NCTeacher Dec 3, 2008

    One of the big problems is that school sports physicals are a joke- they should be much more in depth. Particularly for the students playing "hard" contact sports like football.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    of teenage road accidents but one unneccessery death is one too many.
    haggis basher

    If parents would not be in such a hurry for a teenager to obtain their drivers license maybe that child's life would be saved and not laying in a cemetery somewhere. Accident? Most are not that experience to be behind the wheel. It is a big responsibility. So why the rush in obtaining your drivers license?

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    " A healthy child just don't collaspe and then die."

    When that happens (know it all) something is definetely wrong. I am just glad you are not my parents with your weak thinking. How many other parents are like you?

  • haggis basher Dec 3, 2008

    " A healthy child just don't collaspe and then die."
    Yes they do...thats the problem. Dehydration, head trauma or pre-existing condition (which might never have revealed itself without the excesses of Sports) all kill otherwise healthy kids.
    This is not a problem on the scale of teenage road accidents but one unneccessery death is one too many.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    but if the coach isn't allowing for appropriate water breaks, they may not stay hydrated. Also, no practice in excessive heat.

    If the school has a no caring coach, then it is way time to hired a new head coach who will be concern about the health and welfare of each player. In extreme heat you would think a good caring coach would allow the players to have water and not practice so hard in the heat. That can take a toll on a person's health.

  • Jh5230 Dec 3, 2008

    I think that kids engaging in those serious sports need to be tested for preexisting heart conditions. I'll be honest, I don't know how much this would cost, but maybe it should be a requirement. Some kids had previous heart problems that were not known. Of course this is only part of the problem. Heat exhaustion is a real thing and I think while the kids are at school, playing the sports, it's the coach's responsibility to ensure everyone take a water break. Lives are depending on that. I just think that we need to make sure every school (which I think they do, but not sure) has a AED, all of the students have the appropriate physical with additional heart testing (EKG or whatever) and the school ensures appropriate water breaks are taken. They are responsible for our children while they are in their care. We can educate them about water and whatnot, but if the coach isn't allowing for appropriate water breaks, they may not stay hydrated. Also, no practice in excessive heat.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    Has sports become more important than ones health even when it leads to death? Parents needs to take more responsiblity in the welfare of their child. Don't matter how good a player the kid is, their health should be more important. Also also talk to your kids or have them tested for alcohol abuse, drugs, etc. You might be surprised how many young people are actually doing these illegal things behind the parents back. Its worth checking out. A healthy child just don't collaspe and then die. Something is seriously wrong when that happens.

  • haggis basher Dec 3, 2008

    "Those teams were not small or slow" But its it a pretty safe bet they were smaller and slower than now and as equipment has improved folks just hit harder as it doesn't themselves so much.
    You are probably right about deaths being hushed up, easier in those days before the Internet and Satellite TV trucks

  • djcnty8 Dec 3, 2008

    How about discussing making a sport that has no physical contact like bowling as a high school sport? It seems that most of these sports are or can become physical as some point with a risk of injury.

    High School students are losing out on $6 million in scholarships annually because bowling is not considered a high school varsity sport. Bowling cost far less than any other high school sport to run but yet the NCHSAA refuses to even discuss it!