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JU President Tim Cost joins with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Duval Public Schools Supt. Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti and other city officials in helping kick off "Project 17" to place certified athletic trainers educated at the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences into Duval schools.

JU partners with NFL, Jaguars, JSMP to educate certified athletic trainers for Duval high schools

Jacksonville University is partnering with the Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL and Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program in “Project 17” to educate and place full-time certified athletic trainers in 17 Duval County public high schools by 2020.

Helping lead the way in preparing the best-educated healthcare professionals in the region, the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences will provide fellowships for five athletic trainers to begin their educations this fall and then enter a Masters of Kinesiological Sciences program planned for the fall of 2016.

JU President Tim Cost joins with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in helping kick off “Project 17” to place certified athletic trainers educated at the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences into Duval schools.

“It’s a pleasure to see that people in Jacksonville wanted to come together and find a way to help young student athletes be safe, and so we turned to Health Sciences Dean Dr. Christine Sapienza to help plan this out,” JU President Tim Cost said at a news conference at the Jaguars’ EverBank Field announcing the program on Thursday, July 30. “We are committed to this financially, and committed to this as a primary portion of what goes on in the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences.”

The effort, backed by grants from JU, the Jaguars and the NFL, will create a comprehensive athletic training program in the local public school system to support youth sports injury prevention and care.

Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, the 16th largest school system in the U.S., praised JU for its vision in helping coordinate the program.

JU President Tim Cost with Amy Jorgenson, senior manager of health and safety policy for the NFL, at the EverBank Field event announcing Project 17 .

“In this partnership with JU, our hope long-term is to build a pipeline of future trainers in all of our schools,” he said. “From the NFL to the Jaguars to multiple hospitals to Jacksonville University, this is what separates Jacksonville from other large cities. We are looking at the bigger, broader picture to align our resources to improve our community and athletes. This will make a profound difference in the lives of our children.”

Sapienza said before the news conference that the partnership matches up remarkably well with JU’s current kinesiology program and future directions.

“Our major agenda is to optimally prepare students as experts in movement science, by leveraging our program’s focus on sport performance and injury prevention and health, and by using new investment in our movement science technology and laboratory,” she said. “Because we have anticipated educational needs in movement science and healthcare education overall, our JU-educated certified athletic trainers will better foresee and interpret athletes’ issues before they become problems. Traditional athletic trainers are reactionary, whereas we will educate and train proactive ATs. In addition, our new technology will be integrated into the training so ATs will more seamlessly assess athletes’ movement patterns and performance outcomes.”

JU JAGS JSMP DCPS CAT 22 smallRobert Sefcik, ATC, LAT, executive director of the JSMP. said the collaborative project of multiple community agencies has a common goal of increasing safety in public school athletic programs.

“The partnership was created to assist the schools in funding a comprehensive athletic training program that will begin as an internship model, with the intent to become a graduate assistantship program through Jacksonville University; that will culminate in the creation of 17 full-time positions within the Duval County Public Schools in the next five years,” he said.

National statistics indicate the rate of sports-related injury among youth athletes can exceed 50 percent, and that certified athletic trainers specifically trained in preventing, recognizing and caring for these injuries are not always available to high school student-athletes. The Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation has committed to aid the effort to increase safety on our area youth athletic fields. In response, the NFL matched the commitment, and has donated $50,000 this year, with the possibility of increased funding as the partnership and programming grows.

JU Health Sciences Dean Dr. Christine Sapienza, right, is one of the architects of the plan to put certified athletic trainers into all Duval schools by 2020.

“The health and safety of student athletes is paramount to the NFL, and as such the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation was able to secure a grant from the league for $50,000 to help begin this important initiative to ensure that the Duval County Public Schools have full-time certified athletic trainers by 2020 to serve the needs of all sports at the schools,” said Peter Racine, president of the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation.

Jacksonville University joined the program as an integral component of higher education, and will incorporate educational initiatives into a proposed Masters of Kinesiological Sciences (MS KIN) program to start in the fall of 2016. JU is developing the academic curriculum for the certified athletic trainers, and has created a fellowship pathway program that will allow them access to the proposed MS KIN graduate degree with emphasis in movement sciences. The 2015 athletic trainer cohort will participate in an internship model managed through the JSMP in cooperation with JU.

“We continue to position our mission to provide essential academic roles in the Jacksonville community,” said Sapienza. “Athletic trainers need to be an essential part of our schools’ sports programs, and our Kinesiology program will continue the certified athletic trainers’ education in injury prevention and rehabilitation, sport performance and movement science, shifting them into a significant area of expertise. We are proud to be a part of this powerful team of partners that are working to advocate for the safety of our children.”

Sefcik confirmed the JSMP will function as the program’s center, organizing the finances as well as its medical direction with the involvement of five area sports medicine-trained physicians. JSMP also will develop the policies, procedures and best practices followed by the school athletic trainers and dedicated team physicians.

JU JAGS JSMP DCPS CAT 36 smallCertified athletic trainers are essential health care professionals who provide a safe playing environment, evaluate injuries, implement rehabilitation programs for the return to activity following injury, and provide expertise in outlining sports programs that focus on safe participation. Currently, each Duval County high school has the part-time assistance of a community-based athletic trainer employed by one of our local physician practices or outpatient physical therapy clinics. These athletic trainers provide on-call services to our schools, and some offer support for football programs only, leaving other sports without medical supervison. Because student-athletes in all sports are at risk of injury, this partnership was created to ensure that more sports programs are overseen by these licensed health care professionals.

“Athletics play an important role in shaping the lives of so many of our high school students,” said Kevin Kaplan, MD, head team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Atlantic Coast High School Stingrays.“With athletes getting bigger, faster and stronger, the risk of injury also has increased. It’s crucial to have the appropriate health care in place for preventing and caring for injuries should they occur. I’m proud to be able to support the JSMP, along with the Jaguars, JU and the NFL, in providing certified athletic trainers to our Duval County public school system.”

The total funding needed for this five-year program is approximately $3 million. The Duval County Public Schools will fund the majority, with the remaining funds being generated through private partnerships that will support the program its first two years until the district takes over a majority of the commitment.

For more about the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences, visit http://www.ju.edu/chs.