Certified athletic trainers will be placed in all Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) high schools over the next five years under an agreement announced today between CMS and Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS).

The athletic trainers, who will be CHS employees, will be nationally certified and state licensed, and will direct efforts to protect the health and safety of student athletes in all sports. The action follows growing concern nationwide about athletic injuries, especially concussions sustained by football players and sudden cardiac deaths.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for us to ensure that our student-athletes are receiving the best care while they take part in sports,” said Dr. Peter C. Gorman, superintendent of CMS. “We are very fortunate to have Carolinas Medical Center and Carolinas Healthcare Systems as partners, and we thank them for helping us keep athletics safe for participants.”

CMS high schools that have received a certified athletic trainer this year are South Mecklenburg, Berry Academy and East Mecklenburg. Additional trainers will be added each year until 2015, when all CMS high schools will have one.

Dennis Phillips, executive vice president-metro group of CHS, said the agreement builds on a 17-year relationship with CMS that has provided comprehensive sports medicine services to the schools.

“Our partnership to date has produced a number of unique efforts to safeguard CMS student athletes, including the highly successful Heart of a Champion Day and our ongoing study and treatment of concussions,” Phillips said. “This agreement will better structure our relationship and result in an expansion of services available to students.”

Heart of a Champion Day, begun in 2008, screens more than 1,000 CMS student athletes annually. The free screenings include a general medical evaluation, orthopedic exam and two heart tests to check for conditions that could lead to sudden cardiac death.

CHS’ Sports Medicine Department and Carolinas Rehabilitation jointly operate the Carolinas Concussion Network, which monitors brain injuries, provides treatment and tests athletes before they are allowed to resume competition.

Concussion Network programs include a research study using wireless sensors in football helmets that record the force of impacts during football games. The data is transmitted to a sideline computer in real time. Also, athletes in all sports who have sustained a concussion are given a computer-based test that measures cognitive function before being cleared to play.

Among the new features that will be added under the CMS/CHS agreement are dietary and health and wellness programs, CPR and Automated External Defibrillator training, a 24-hour sports medicine nurse hotline, sports medicine web site and a quarterly newsletter.

Certified athletic trainers hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a major in athletic training and are focused on injury prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation. They are required to pursue continuing education to retain their certification (ATC or Athletic Trainer-Certified), which is awarded by the Board of Certification, Inc.

Athletic trainers practicing in North Carolina are also licensed by the North Carolina Board of Athletic Trainer Examiners (NCBATE).