California is currently the only state in the country that doesn't regulate who can and cannot call themselves an athletic trainer, and a 2019 study showed
more than half of California schools either don't employ an athletic trainer, or employed unqualified health personnel in that role. In fact, there's no state requirement to have an athletic trainer.
"When they find out, a lot of parents are usually frustrated and upset that their kids are not getting the care they deserve," says Nick Cascelli, a certified athletic trainer who also holds a bachelor's degree in athletic training and completed his master's in sports and exercise psychology.
Since 2018, Providence Southern California
has provided athletic trainers for eight San Fernando Valley high schools at no cost to the schools. Research shows access to a certified trainer reduces injury rates and manages sports related injuries better.
"When our trainer Nick is here, it's a warm blanket and he knows what he's doing and when he's not there, we're all there trying to play doctor," says Patrick McMenamin, the Co-Athletic Director at Burbank High School where Cascelli works thanks to Providence.
Cascelli is employed by Providence, but works at Burbank High School, coordinating coverage for all of the 24 sports played on campus. Caring for the athletes is a job made easier because he's there every day.
"It's very beneficial to be on campus all the time, working with the kids to know them, so that when things go very wrong you can act in that instant and you don't have to second guess yourself or you don't have to wonder if this is out of the norm for this athlete or this individual," explains Cascelli.
The trainers provided by Providence offer a range of health care to prevent injuries, but equally important is the hands on work after the inevitable happens. Alex Hossepian broke his arm while playing football at Burbank High and says Cascelli has been with him throughout the injury and recovery.
"He's definitely helped both on the physical and the mental side, you know keeping my head in the right space, telling me it's just part of it we have to push through you're almost at the end... you'll be there soon," said Hossepian.
Senior Keith Kasitz broke his back playing football and knows first hand how important it is for Cascelli, or any certified athletic trainer, to be there for high school students.
"They're helpful for all sports... all athletics, choir dance...Having somebody on site that knows how the human body works in high stress load environments is very helpful for everybody," he said.
California has the second-largest number of participants in high school athletics in the nation, and many of them will be hurt. Having a qualified person to help them in their recovery can have a lifetime of benefits.
"Some of these exercises that I give them are not just good for today or for now for their injury, it's going to be, they've had surgery so these are things they're going to be dealing with for the rest of their lives," says Cascelli. "I try to educate as much as I can that it's not just here and it's not just now. All of this knowledge can be then absorbed and applied later in life."
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