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Cameron Smith

Free athletic trainers help keep L.A. public student athletes safe

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Concussion safety has been the biggest story in prep sports all year, and one of the main issues raised by rising rates of head injuries and questionable helmet safety is the need for adequate medical professionals to be on site for any high school football activity.

Yet, amidst a time of budget cutbacks for school districts across the nation, funding is rarely available for additional medical professionals, with plenty of schools going without athletic trainers altogether. That need is what led to the creation of a fascinating initiative in the Los Angeles area, where a group called Team HEAL is providing trainers to high school athletic programs at no cost.

The "HEAL" in Team HEAL's name is an acronym which stands for "Helping Enrich Athletes Lives", which is the goal of Team HEAL founder Dr. Clarence Shields of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Center. Shields, the former team doctor for the Los Angeles Rams before the franchise's move to St. Louis, began offering his services to inner city schools free of charge when the NFL team skipped town. Shortly thereafter, he found himself inundated with requests for pro bono surgeries for injured athletes.

Shields couldn't keep up with the demand for the free care himself, so he started the HEAL Foundation, reaching out to other medical professionals and health companies connected to the Kerlan-Jobe center, which pitched in to fund four different athletic trainers for Los Angeles public schools. Those trainers now attend all athletic competitions Banning, Carson, Crenshaw and Manual Arts High Schools, filling the void left by depleted funding for athletic programs in the city's schools.

This weekend, two of those schools will face off against each other in the CIF City Section Division I championship game on Saturday, when Crenshaw and Carson face off at the L.A. Coliseum. As highlighted by the Los Angeles Times, while there's sure to be plenty of tension between the two schools on Saturday, at game's end both team can give thanks for a generous program that's helping keep both school's athletes safe.

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