California’s crisis with athletic trainers: High school athletes are at risk


Javier Venegas, a 21-year-old distance runner for Golden West College, suddenly collapsed on the track one afternoon in late January.

He wasn’t breathing. He didn’t have a pulse.

Fortunately, Pat Frohn, a certified athletic trainer for Golden West, plus a Long Beach State athletic-training student, Tori Mulitauaopele, were in the Athletic Training Room and were called out to the track. They began CPR. It took two shocks from the automated external defibrillator (AED) to return Javier’s heartbeat.

From left, Pat Frohnn and Tori Mulitauaopele recount how they used CPR to save a life on the track at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)
From left, Pat Frohnn and Tori Mulitauaopele recount how they used CPR to save a life on the track at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

The EMT arrived and Venegas was rushed to the emergency room, where he was put into a medically induced coma. He is now recovered from what was determined to be a heart arrhythmia.

“If I wasn’t here, if there was no athletic trainer on staff, if this was any high school in the area?” Frohn said, “Javier would be dead.”

California has more than 800,000 high-schoolers playing sports, yet the state does not require schools to have athletic trainers at practices or games—and very few do. Just 25 percent of public high schools employ a full-time athletic trainer, according to CIF data from 2016-17 (athletic directors from 1,406 schools self-reported—an 88.6 percent rate).

Even more troubling? California is the only state that does not regulate the profession of athletic training. That means that anyone can call themselves an athletic trainer, regardless of whether they are certified; regardless of whether they possess the educational qualifications, clinical experience or medical knowledge to practice.

This puts student-athletes at enormous risk. Among those working as athletic trainers in California high schools, 16.2 percent are not certified, according to CIF data.

“It’s a level of fraud,” said Brian Gallagher, director of sports medicine/certified athletic trainer at Harvard Westlake.

The CATA has been working on this issue for more than three decades. California Assemblymember Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) has introduced Assembly Bill 1510, which would provide for the licensure and regulation of athletic trainers and establish the Athletic Trainer Licensing Committee within the California Board of Occupational Therapy. It would bar a person from practicing as an athletic trainer or using the title unless the person is licensed by the…



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