In conjunction with the 67th Clinical Symposia & AT Expo, NATA held its annual Capitol Hill Day Wednesday, June 22, the association’s biggest advocacy event of the year.
This year, more than 400 athletic trainers representing 48 states made the trek from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., to speak with legislators on two important pieces of legislation – the Secondary School Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights and H.R. 921, which allows athletic trainers and other sports medicine professionals to travel with their teams across state lines.
“Youth sports are critical to building character, socializing and learning how to lose,” said U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, who is a sponsor of H.R. 921 and the Secondary School Student Athlete’s Bill of Rights. “Of everything I know, a lot of it was learned on the sports field.”
Costello met with District Two Director AJ Duffy III, MS, ATC, PT, Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society Immediate Past President John Moyer, LAT, ATC, and Scott Heinerichs, EdD, ATC, of West Chester University, who thanked him for his support of the athletic training profession.
“Being from Pennsylvania, it’s an honor to have Costello be the main sponsor of the Secondary Student Athlete’s Bill of Rights,” Moyer said.
Duffy, who has attended every Capitol Hill Day but one, said interacting with legislators in Washington, D.C., helps build connections and relationships that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
“It’s been great to be able to talk to talk to individuals about what we’re passionate about and that’s safety for athletes at all levels,” he said, adding that as someone who travels between four different states, he would personally benefit from H.R. 921. “If it goes through the house like it’s supposed to, and it goes through the Senate, we’ll achieve something we haven’t achieve before in our profession.
“It’s safety. At the end of the day, we want to make sure the people we care for in our various settings are safe.”
Heinerichs said being able to advocate for the profession is a great opportunity for athletic trainers.
“It’s very interesting when you get to meet with these legislators and their legislative assistants,” said Heinerichs, who attended Capitol Hill Day for the first time this year. “If they haven’t made up their mind, you can help influence them. It helps our voice be heard.”
Fellow first-time attendee Frank Grimaldi Jr., PA-C, ATC, said that even though he had met some of the legislators he visited in a different setting, it was interesting to see them in their office and speak to them about the bills.
“We were able to put something in their hand that they would remember,” he said of the packet of information each legislator received that included information on the two pieces of legislation as well as youth sports safety, among other documents.
Erik Nason, MBA, MS, ATC, who met with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, both of Florida, said Capitol Hill Day provided a great opportunity to educate those who aren’t familiar with the profession about the role of an athletic trainer.
“Both were familiar with athletics and understand sports injuries, so [what we were say was] hitting close to home,” he said.
Advocacy is an important aspect of NATA and is one of three aspects of the association’s strategic plan. For more information on NATA’s advocacy efforts or how you can get involved, visit the advocacy section of the website.