GHSA wins AT Advocate Award from trainers association

The Georgia High School Association’s efforts to improve safety and health care for student athletes has earned it a prestigious honor as the GHSA has been named the winner of the 2020 AT Advocate Award.

The award recognizes people and organizations that have improved athletic health care to student-athletes at secondary schools and is presented by the National Athletic Trainers' Association Secondary School Athletic Trainers' Committee (NATA SSATC).

Previous awardees include Jeff Miller and Amy Jorgenson with The NFL Foundation and Jen Schmidt and Molly Matson from Gatorade.

‘’It’s something we’re proud of,’’ GHSA executive director Robin Hines said Wednesday. “The biggest thing is that we’ve felt we needed to make safety a point of emphasis. People are interested in what the GHSA does because it’s sports and athletics, and people are passionate about that, but injury prevention, sports medicine, concussions protocols, those are the most critical things that we do. We’re grateful to be recognized.’’

Hines credited the GHSA’s sports medicine advisory committee (SMAC). It is headed by GHSA associate director Don Corr and comprises healthcare professionals from various disciplines. 

The GHSA last fall was rated the fifth-best high school association for promoting health and safety policies by the Korey Stringer Institute. Two years prior, the GHSA was rated below average nationally.

In the recent rankings, the Springer Institute lauded the GHSA’s concussion protocol and ranked Georgia far above the national average in healthcare coverage for student-athletes, emergency preparedness and prevention of exertional heat stroke and sudden cardiac arrest. The Stringer Institute rated Georgia below average only in addressing traumatic head injury.

Georgia’s efforts to improve safety date back earlier, though. In 2012, Georgia became the sixth state to adopt preseason guidelines for heat acclimation. For example, the first five days of football practice must be single sessions limited to two hours, and players may not wear pads. A University of Georgia study concluded that exertional heat-illness incidents declined 70 percent after those rules changes.

In 2018, the GHSA approved by an emergency action plan under bylaw 2.21. It requires that each school have a plan on file that includes responses to serious illness and injury and to natural disasters and must involve local law enforcement and medical personnel.

“The Georgia High School Association has shown great dedication to increasing the access high school students have to quality athletic healthcare and athletic trainers,” said NATA SSATC Chairman Bart Peterson. “This award recognizes the GHSA's consistent efforts to improve the level of healthcare available for athletes in our community.”

The award will be presented during the NATA Clinical Symposia & AT Expo on June 18-20 in Atlanta.

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