The Howard County school board included yesterday in its budget request for the next fiscal year money to pay for having an athletic trainer at each high school during intrascholastic sports practices and events.
The allocation, which the County Council must approve if it is to become effective July 1, marked the first time since the idea was broached locally in 1988 that the board has even agreed to seek the money.
Athletes in county public schools, among the state's most affluent, and their counterparts in Baltimore are the last in Central Maryland not to have trainers pesent during athletic activity.
Proponents of the measure contended that the absence of trainers not only jeopardizes athletes -- when injury occurs and for rehabilitation -- but could leave the school system open to financial liability.
The 10 county high schools, which count 6,600 athletes, now share two part-time trainers who work on call from an office in Columbia.
Board members voted 4-1 to add $85,840 to current sports health services money, enough for each school to contract with a trainer who would cover all athletic seasons in the school year. Only board member Sandra French voted against the concept, favoring instead the phasing in of trainers.
"From the standpoints of safety and need," said Don Disney, the county school system's athletics coordinator since 1985, "this is the most significant addition of funding to the athletic program since I've been associated with it.
"It's not a done deal," he added. "But to use a sports analogy, we've never even been to first base. May will be crunch time [in the County Council's budget cycle], when we'll be at third base."
He said that having trainers during practice hours, as well as during games, is important because, statistically, most injuries occur in practice.
The school board's vote came after two advisory groups, including some student-athletes, endorsed the measure.
Jerry Yetter, president of one of those panels as well as Wilde Lake High's boosters, said inclusion of the money "is long overdue and will provide a lot of students with improved safety. Also, in the long run, we think the county actually will save money."
Pub Date: 2/24/99