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Athlete Health and Safety Must be Prioritized

September 16, 2021

There is a consistent barrage of statements from athletic administrators touting the importance of student-athlete health and safety, and yet we continue to hear and see examples of healthcare simply not being a priority. Department spending around programs supporting name, image and likeness education, leadership training and life skills is plentiful, but the last time we checked, no one died from not having an optimized Tik Tok account.

Meanwhile, sports medicine staffs are understaffed, under-resourced and unempowered, putting student-athletes at risk and leaving institutions open to enormous financial and reputational liability from accidental injury, abuse or even death of an athlete.

Improved healthcare delivery might not be a flashy recruiting draw, but it is certainly a point of focus among athletes already on rosters. The Division I and Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committees recently announced their initiatives and priorities for the 2021-22 campaign with both groups listing physical and/or mental health as paramount concerns.

These concerns are clearly valid.

Just this week, Alcorn State made national news after canceling its Monday and Tuesday practices because there was not an athletic trainer available. According to reports, there has not been a full-time athletic trainer on staff since this summer.

Bottom line: the ability to provide appropriate levels of medical care should be an absolute bare minimum standard for operating any athletic department or sporting organization. Retaining and/or replacing full-time medical staff must be prioritized at the same level as retaining or replacing a coaching or administrative position.

Providing appropriate medical care and striving to meet established best practices are never optional expenses or areas to minimize spending and resources. The situation at Alcorn State is an extreme example of a systemic ignoration of the importance of healthcare delivery.

Many of these issues arise from a lack of healthcare insight and knowledge at the upper levels of administration. Athletic directors have so many areas of focus, especially with the continued shifts in the culture of college athletics, but an inattention to the health and safety of student-athletes can have devastating consequences.

USCAH can help.

Our team at the U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health has nearly 300 years combined experience in athletics healthcare and administration and are made up of sports medicine physicians, athletic trainers, university and high school athletic administrators and former student-athletes with professional experience from leading institutions, healthcare systems and organizations across the country.

We partner with universities, high schools, rec, club and youth sports programs of all sizes to deliver athlete health and safety consultation, education and compliance resources that reduce risk and protect against undue injuries, wrongful deaths and avoidable scandals. As an independent third party, we can help bridge the gaps between university and athletic administration, healthcare systems and athletic healthcare providers.


Dr. James R. Borchers, President and CEO
U.S. Council for Athletes' Health
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