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Chester County Press

Opinion: Brain Drain of Commonwealth athletic trainers

12/06/2023 09:54AM ● By Nicky Cattano, PhD, MPH, LAT, ATC

Current Pennsylvania law limits athletic trainers to working exclusively with athletes. This outdated restriction is detrimental to the people of the Commonwealth and also hinders the full potential of athletic trainers. It is time for a change.

Athletic trainers stepped up when school buildings were closed, social distancing was happening, sports participation was halted, and the demand for healthcare was critical during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic with the Governor’s temporary waivers - working with patient populations who needed healthcare, beyond just athletes.  Athletic trainers demonstrated their knowledge, skills, and versatility by successfully treating individuals from various backgrounds without any negative outcomes. This experience highlighted the crucial role athletic trainers can play in the broader healthcare system.

Pennsylvania boasts the highest number of athletic training programs in the country—23. Current educational programs include standards that address working with patients who are not traditional athletes as well as best practices that include invasive procedures.  Unfortunately Pennsylvania is losing talented graduates to other states that allow them to work to their fullest capabilities and education. This brain drain not only hampers the growth and development of our local healthcare workforce but also deprives Pennsylvanians of the expert care they deserve.

It is important to note that some are opposing this necessary modernization for poor reasons. Their opposition stems from a misguided sense of turf protection rather than a genuine concern for patient welfare.  Athletic trainers are educated to provide athletic training services to a variety of populations.  By allowing athletic trainers to work with people other than athletes, we can enhance the accessibility and quality of healthcare services in Pennsylvania.

It is time for Pennsylvania to update its laws and allow athletic trainers to work with people beyond the realm of athletics.  This change will align with what other states are already doing across the country, it will allow Pennsylvania to retain more of its quality graduates, and it will also improve the overall healthcare landscape for the people of the Commonwealth. Let's embrace progress and provide the necessary support for athletic trainers to fulfill their potential and positively impact the lives of all Pennsylvanians.