On July 18, 2014, California governor Jerry Brown vetoed AB 1890, a bill that would have made it illegal for any person to use the title of "athletic trainer" unless that person goes to college, gets a bachelor's degree in an accredited athletic training education program and is certified by the athletic trainers' board of certification
In a terse veto message, Governor Brown said "these conditions impose unnecessary burdens on athletic trainers
without sufficient evidence that they are really needed."
The governor's veto is troubling. California is the only state that does not regulate athletic trainers, and that creates a few problems as schools must make a judgment on a "trainer's" level of expertise, a task for which they are ill-suited.
We license a wide variety of medical professionals so that their clients/patients don't have to guess as to whether they possess minimal levels of competency. I do not know why the governor is willing to allow California to expose schools to risk in the area of certified athletic trainers.
Indeed, there are some parts of the country that do their utmost to compel schools to use certified athletic trainers. California goes the opposite way in refusing to acknowledge that athletic trainers and certified athletic trainers possess expertise. The failure to enact AB 1890 means that medically trained certified athletic trainers are being treated like the decidely medically untrained personal trainer at the local gym or YMCA.
I have worked with people in authority who do not understand the distinction; sometimes I even hear people question why ATs are needed, their expertise, and even whether they are worth the money schools spend to keep them employed. They are wrong on all counts. I agree with MomsTEAM's Brooke de Lench, who has long advocated in favor of every U.S. high school having access to an AT or, better yet, on staff (indeed, they may even pay for themselves, with recent research suggesting that high schools with athletic trainers have far more diagnosed concussions and fewer injuries). It is widely acknowledged that ATs play a critical and unique role in concussion management; and, as a recent article points out on this site, they also make excellent concussion educators. UItimately, without regulation and minimum standards, the door is left wide open for someone who truly lacks minimal expertise to misrepresent themselves and their qualifications by using the title "certified athletic trainer" or "athletic trainer."
In this respect, California lags behind 49 states and the District of Columbia which recognize ATs as health care professionals, and it saddens me to see that, just as we were on the verge of joining the rest of the country, the governor of my state stopped us from doing so.
Even worse, the California legislation that Governor Brown vetoed was written in a manner that eliminated the need for any additional government expenditures and did not add create a new government bureaucracy. The bill would not have established a licensing agency or a regulatory body, such as exists in the 49 other states that certify and license athletic trainers. Rather, AB 1890 would simply have barred individuals from holding themselves out as an "athletic trainer" or "certified athletic trainer" unless they met what most people would consider to be minimal standards of the profession. The absence of a licensing authority meant that the only enforcement mechanism would have been a lawsuit. In short, the Governor refused to even protect the title "athletic trainer" from those who would use it for fraudulent purposes.
All I can say is, "How puzzling."
Donald Collins is is an attorney, long-time basketball referee, and Commissioner of Athletics for the California Interscholastic Federation, San Francisco Section. For a full bio, click here.