BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - School begins Thursday in East Baton Rouge, which means the prep football season is about to kick off.
Players have been practicing in the summer heat. Along with the heat, there is more focus than ever on injuries, leaving some to wonder if local schools have enough resources to keep players safe.
Standing under the oppressive August sun, Tara High School Head Coach Cooter Mansur watches his team practice for the new season. He said he's got the players for a strong offense and defense, and a full coaching staff to prep his team. However, he said there is one position missing: a certified trainer.
"It's a big concern for us because we don't have the means to have people on the sideline that can take care of kids immediately," said Mansur.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association highly recommends that athletic trainers be on hand for both games and practices in any sport, but it is up to individual districts to follow the suggestion.
While some schools in East Baton Rouge Parish have a trainer or medical personnel on hand, with some even volunteering time, many schools do not have one on staff for various reasons.
If there is no trainer around, it falls to coaches to keep players safe. Coaches and officials go through first aid training, and everyone is taught how to spot concussion symptoms. During the heat of the summer, extra steps are taken to keep players cool and hydrated.
However, schools could soon be facing new requirements that raise the bar on safety. LHSAA's Assistant Executive Director Keith Alexander said because of growing concern over concussions and other serious injuries, the group is working on a new rule that would require trainers for all schools.
"Certainly that is a great concern of ours and it should be a great concern to all of our local school boards and our independent school districts," said Alexander.
According to Alexander, the LHSAA has been working on the new mandate since last year. Before it is approved, it must go through the LSHAA's medicine advisory committee as well as its principal's association and executive board.
If all is approved, Alexander hopes the mandate will be in place by next spring. Then, it will be up to schools to find the funding.
"It all takes money unfortunately," said Mansur.
Mansur is very familiar with the advanced safety equipment and procedures that help cut down on player injuries, and its costs. Even just refurbishing helmets every two years, which is required, can cost thousands of dollars.
That is why Mansur founded Save the Game, Inc. It is a non-profit that raises money to help schools offset the costs of safety equipment and raises awareness for the needs of athlete safety. But, he said concerns over safety are costing schools more than money.
"There's a 25 percent participation decrease right now in football and it's due to concussions. If we can do something to help the high schools fund things, that's a big step in the right direction," said Mansur.
Mansur hopes to raise enough funds to help schools across the state and maybe even fund a few trainers. To get involved with Save the Game, Inc. email email@example.com.