About a third of the estimated 2,100 student athletes in the Conejo Valley experience some type of injury requiring medical intervention. Data collected by certified athletic trainers (ATC) in a report to the CDC show that these athletes require medical intervention resulting in missed playing time. According to Scott Blatt, DC, ATC, head athletic trainer at Westlake High School since 1995, having athletic trainers on the fields to assist coaches in assessing injuries creates a safer environment for the students.
By building trust with Westlake High School, Blatt nurtured a solid relationship with the athletic departments at all three high schools. In 2005 he established a presence at Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park high schools. As a trained EMT, chiropractor and athletic trainer, with extensive experience on pro volleyball, surfing and football medical teams, he showed up to practices and competitive events, at first alone, and then with his staff, to provide free brain function assessments pre-season to all athletes, in addition to assisting the coaches with injuries sustained during practices and competitions. They invested time educating coaches on everything from heat injuries to asthma and, of course, concussions.
In 2014 Dr. Blatt created the Conejo Concussion Institute (CCI), a nonprofit organization, with the goal of providing brain function evaluations and baseline screenings for districtwide participants in youth and high school sports programs, along with the most current information on research in sports-related brain injuries. With the organizational support of his colleagues, Drs. Megan and Pat Hardin, and a Board of Directors composed of renowned physicians, Dr. Ian Armstrong, Dr. Michael Vercillo and Dr. Pierre Durand, CCI continues to focus on educating coaches and parents about the importance of injury prevention and injury assessment.
Until recently, Blatt and his staff at Body Logic Sports Therapy attended the three Conejo Valley high schools’ sport practices and competitions voluntarily.
“My office staff has provided this community service as a team. This year the Conejo Unified School District agreed to allow CCI to hire a full-time athletic trainer for every practice and sporting event year-round.” But they don’t have enough to pay them a competitive salary and it’s no longer sustainable for Blatt to provide services for free. He is now searching for help to continue the program.
You may ask why the state or local school districts do not cover the costs for athletic trainers—school budgets are stretched thin, with more than 80% dedicated to administrative, classified (office workers, bus drivers, janitors) and certificated (credentialed teachers) staff, and the rest going toward supplies, transportation and utilities. According to the CVUSD School Board, “88% of district revenue comes from the state and local taxes… with localities generally maintaining more discretion over… extracurricular activities.” Therefore, athletics are primarily financed through donations and contributions of families and community partners.
There are currently four ATCs working in the local high schools, thanks to some creative financing. Conejo Unified School District and Los Robles Hospital each contributed $30,000 toward their salaries, along with liability insurance, taxes and supplies; but the budget is $300,000.
Blatt believes that a full-time, athletic trainer on the sidelines of youth sports ensures consistency in supervision and a depth of knowledge.
“Athletic trainers take the burden of medical assessment out of the hands of a coach and give it to a trained individual who is the child’s advocate.” The ATC makes decisions based on a field-side physical evaluation and comparison to the baseline information collected pre-season.
“Having the ability to get to know our kids (by being at every practice) and make real-time decisions for our youth based on knowledge of that child and their family is at the heart of why I so strongly believe a full-time ATC at each school is so valuable,” says Blatt.
CCI’s goals include increasing awareness and undertaking research on the impact of concussions in youth sports to better identify, diagnose and prevent injuries in future generations. CCI has developed a partnership with the UCLA BrainSPORT program to share information and data. All three Conejo Valley high schools’ principals, athletic directors and coaches support CCI’s efforts and urgently need community backing.
Learn more or contribute to CCI and support student athletes at ConejoConcussionInstitute.com.