SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - When it comes to keeping high school athletes safe, a recent study ranked California almost dead last.
The research was conducted by UConn's Korey Stringer Institute and looked at state's health and safety policies relating to the leading causes of death for student athletes: sudden cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke and exertional sickling.
California ranked #50 only behind Colorado.
RELATED: Back to school health checklist
But leaders with the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the agency that governs interscholastic athletics, says the study does not include the whole picture of what the state is doing to protect students.
"We need to get better but I think we are doing some really good things," said Jerry Schniepp, CIF San Diego Section Commissioner. "All our coaches are required to receive training in not only first aid and CPR, but they are required to take courses on concussions and concussion management, on sudden cardiac arrest, and we think those mandated courses make a big difference in their interaction with kids."
One of the reasons California ranked low was because it does not require athletic trainers to be licensed. We're the only state that does not have this requirement. Several attempts have been made to pass legislation to change that but none have succeeded.
AB 1510, authored by Assemblymember Matt Dababneh would align California with the country in regulating the profession of athletic training. Supporters hope it will be heard in January.
"Anybody can call themselves an athletic trainer," said Robbie Bowers, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer at Rancho Bernardo High. "We know that there are persons in schools and school districts that are directing these emergency responses that have no real clinical educational background to be doing so."
Bowers says he has gone above and beyond state recommendations to keep students safe but knows not all districts have the resources to do so.
"What else can we do better? I don't think it's a bad thing to point out there's room for growth," said Bowers.
California also lost points because there is no mandated heat stroke policy for the whole state. Schniepp says districts are entrusted to make individualized policies based on what's best for their region.
"We always can improve, we always can do better. Some of it is related to resources and bringing in funding to make athletics safer," said Schniepp.
CIF has had a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee in place since 1996 and recently created a health and safety advisory committee in San Diego. The agency says their number one priority is the safety and health of students.