*April 1, 2016 *̶ In July 2015, the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program (JSMP) introduced Project 17, a concerted effort to place full-time certified athletic trainers at all 17 high schools in the Duval County Public School (DCPS) system by 2020. The effort will create a comprehensive athletic training program in the local public school system to support youth sports injury prevention and care. Project 17 has immediately impacted five DCPS high schools – Andrew Jackson, Baldwin Middle/Senior, Englewood, Jean Ribault and William Raines – and will grow incrementally during the next four years to completely serve all 17 DCPS high schools.
Today, an announcement was made at the inaugural Leadership in Sports Health, Safety and Research Award Luncheon held at EverBank Field that Terry Parker and Westside High Schools will have certified athletic trainers on their sports fields during the 2016-17 school year, thanks to Project 17.
"Certified athletic trainers are no longer a luxury; they are a necessity, especially in youth sports," says Robert Sefcik, executive director of the JSMP. "Heat stroke, cardiac arrest, concussion and complications of sickle cell trait are real dangers in sports. Many sports injuries are preventable, so that is JSMP's primary goal; however, when injuries do occur, being able to recognize and immediately respond to them is critical. That's what certified athletic trainers do."
As part of the luncheon, the inaugural Leadership in Sports Health, Safety and Research Award was presented to the National Football League, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on hand to accept the award on the league's behalf. The NFL's work to promote safety through various programs includes USA Heads-Up Football training, NFL/LISC Community Fields, major medical research on concussion and safety issues, and specifically in Jacksonville, the NFL Foundation's grant to Project 17.
Through the efforts of the Jaguars Foundation, the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program received an initial $50,000 NFL matching grant last year and will receive a second $50,000 matching grant from the NFL this year. These dollars have been combined with support from local government, business and private partners to get Project 17 started.
"Having the NFL Commissioner at our event signifies the importance of safety at each and every level of sport," says Sefcik. "With the NFL and Jacksonville Jaguars as our partners, we can truly impact our community and student-athletes."
Goodell said of the Project 17 initiative, "It is exciting to see the collaborative approach the Jacksonville community is taking to enhance safety in high school sports by adding comprehensive athletic training programs with the support of the Jaguars and the NFL. Through Project 17, the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program has crafted a proactive, evidence-based approach to getting student-athletes the medical supervision they need and deserve, which can serve as a model for other communities in the U.S."
Also attending the luncheon were Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan, Jaguars President Mark Lamping, Jacksonville University President Tim Cost, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program Board Chair Michael Aubin.
Certified athletic trainers are licensed health care providers who collaborate with physicians and act as a first line of defense for high school student-athletes. Without certified athletic trainers, injuries may be overlooked or treated inadequately. Project 17 aims to reduce the incidence of sports-related injuries and endorse best practice standards and appropriate care for injuries as they occur.
"Duval County Public Schools is dedicated to keeping children safe, and our commitment to having certified athletic trainers on our sports fields is a must. Through Project 17, we have heard positive feedback from student-athletes and their parents. Our school principals are equally supportive and reassured to know they have a qualified health care resource on campus daily, supervising student athletic activities," said Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools.
Dr. Vitti added, "The heightened approach to safety in our sports programs has and will continue to provide significant benefits on the field in terms of reducing injuries, educating our young student-athletes about wellness, and introducing sports medicine as a possible career choice. It is essential we continue to make Project 17 a great model program."