Judge Orders Medical Help at Football Games

By Mark Walsh — October 18, 1989 2 min read

Washington--A judge has ordered Washington, D.C., officials to provide qualified medical personnel at every high-school athletic contest to comply with a 1987 law that critics charged was being ignored.

Judge Nan R. Huhn of D.C. Superior Court issued the preliminary injunction Oct. 5 after hearing evidence that some football games were being played without a certified trainer or registered nurse present, as required by Washington law.

The District’s “nurse assignment act” also requires a nurse to be present at least 16 hours a week at every elementary school in the city. Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools, a group representing 112 parent-teacher associations in Washington, sued the city government, arguing that the law had been ignored.

“We wanted them to provide what they are supposed to provide,” said Delabian Rice-Thurston, executive director of the parents’ organization.

The judge ordered the city government, which is mandated to carry out the law, to provide medical personnel for football games immediately. Judge Huhn also required the government to submit by Oct. 23 a plan for providing coverage for other fall sports, and by Nov. 13 a plan for covering athletic events later in the school year.

Ms. Rice-Thurston said officials complied with the ruling and provided medical personnel at football games on the first weekend to follow the hearing.

No Injunction on Nurses

During a four-day hearing, the judge twice suggested that the parents’ group consider seeking an order to bar games from being played if no trainer or nurse were present, but the group preferred to have the city ordered to comply with the law.

The court heard evidence that the schools have only a handful of certified trainers, and that efforts to get doctors to volunteer to be present at games had run into snags.

The judge declined to issue an injunction regarding the portion of the law requiring nurses in elementary schools, deciding that the matter could wait until trial.

An official of the city government’s school-health bureau acknowledged in court that no new trainers had been hired as a result of the law, and that the current budget provides for the hiring of only one new nurse. To meet the standards set under the law, 47 new nurses would be required, officials said.

A local nurses’ group has also sued the city government for alleged lack of compliance with the law.

John LeGear, a spokesman for the National Athletic Trainers Association, said no state has a law that requires athletic trainers to be present at high-school competitions.

“That is something generally regulated at the school or district level,” he said, adding that an increasing number of schools are providing certified trainers at athletic practices and events.

“Five years ago, 6 percent of all high schools had the services of trainers,” he said. “Now, it’s closer to 20 percent.”