MANHATTAN BEACH — California State Assemblyman Rob Bonta traveled down from his East Bay district in the Bay Area to Mira Costa High School on Saturday morning to deliver a message to 150 high school students attending a sports medicine mentoring program.
“We have a safety problem in the state of California,” Bonta said.
The issue is unique to California, the only state that does not regulate the profession of athletic trainers, which introduces the risk of unlicensed trainers treating high school athletes.
Bonta is determined to change that. He introduced a bill this year, AB 1592, that would require state licensing of athletic trainers. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and former Golden State Warriors star Chris Mullin have penned op-eds in support of it.
Saturday’s event could provide a boost to Bonta’s cause. Los Angeles’ two NFL teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, partnered to donate $200,000 over two years to West Coast Sports Medicine Foundation and Team HEAL. The NFL also matched the donation for an additional $100,000. The money will go toward providing certified athletic trainers and resources to high schools in the Los Angeles region that are underserved.
“A grant like this helps all of the high schools around the surrounding area,” said Damon Mitchell, the Chargers’ head athletic trainer. “A certified athletic trainer has the education to understand an injury and understands how to get that specific athlete on the field, on the court, on the floor.”
According to Bonta, multiple efforts to regulate the profession have been attempted in California over the past few decades, but the attempts have stalled due to scope-of-practice disputes with other healthcare providers.
Bonta, who played soccer at Yale, has two daughters who also play sports. His eldest daughter — a Division I soccer player — sustained a concussion in high school, and though she recovered, Bonta said the risk of other athletes being treated by non-licensed trainers scares him.
“I hate to think of the student who has been treated by an athletic trainer who doesn’t know how to do it,” Bonta said.
Rams head athletic trainer Reggie Scott and former Pro Bowl cornerback LeRoy Irvin also spoke to the students. Irvin, who played for the Rams from 1980-89, urged students to be knowledgeable about injuries and be willing to tell players that they are too hurt to play.
“As the trainers, you have to have the willpower and fortitude and knowledge to be able to know when a player can go and when he can’t,” Irvin said.
To Bonta, it is a no-brainer to have trainers certified and regulated by the state. He is appreciative and thankful for the Rams and Chargers assisting in this cause.
Bonta said California likes to claim it leads the nation – in environmental protection, in standing for immigrants’ rights, in providing healthcare.
“This is a place where we’re literally in last place,” Bonta said. “We’re the only state in the nation that does not (regulate) athletic trainers, and certify and license them here in the state. We can do better. We must do better.”