Survey: 19% of NCAA Trainers Say Coaches Played Athletes Deemed Medically Unfit

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 29:  A pylon is seen during the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Ohio State Buckeyes  on September 29, 2018 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The National Athletic Trainers' Association released the results of a survey Tuesday that outlined how 19 percent of the trainers interviewed said college coaches allowed a student-athlete to play who was "medically out of participation."

"To think that we're in 2019 and that would still happen is really concerning," NATA president Tory Lindley said of the results, per ESPN.com's Paula Lavigne. "It should be concerning for everyone involved in that institution. It should certainly be concerning to the parents, and certainly concerning to the athlete."

Lavigne provided more from the survey:

"According to the survey, about 36 percent of respondents reported that a coach has been able to influence the hiring and firing of sports medicine staff. And of athletic trainers who reported that happening, 58 percent then reported being pressured by a coach or administrator to make a decision 'not in the best interest of a student-athlete's health.'"

In one example cited by the NATA survey, a trainer alleged a Division I football coach had personally spoken to players who were scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery. He convinced multiple players to forgo the procedure in order to be available for spring practices.

Maryland offensive tackle Jordan McNair died in June 2018, with ESPN.com's Heather Dinich reporting in August 2018 that McNair showed "signs of extreme exhaustion" during a team practice before collapsing due to heatstroke.

According to Dinich, Maryland head football trainer Wes Robinson instructed the team's interns to "drag [McNair's] ass across the field," which was substantiated in an independent investigation commissioned by the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents.

Garden City Community College football player died shortly after the team's first summer practice in August 2018. Following an autopsy, a medical examiner determined exertional heatstroke to be the cause of death.

HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel reported in September 2018 that 30 college football players had died from complications they suffered during team workouts since 2000.

In January 2016, the Power Five conferences unveiled new rules meant to improve the safety of student-athletes. Under the guidelines, coaches wouldn't have the unilateral authority to hire or fire athletic trainers. In addition, medical personnel would have the last word on whether a student-athlete could continue playing.

A quarter of the survey respondents said they believed they lacked the "medical autonomy" to properly manage a student-athlete's health.