Thomas Mallon '13 didn't know his neck was broken. He wanted his high school lacrosse game to keep moving—and that's exactly what he planned to do. Thanks to the expertise of a certified athletic trainer, Mallon remained still and received appropriate care—care that may have saved his life. So, when Mallon learned that most California high schools can't afford to keep trainers on the field, he decided to advocate for injured athletes. He traded his lacrosse gear for a suit and tie, and testified before state legislators in Sacramento. He started a non-profit program that trains youth athletes to recognize serious conditions and respond appropriately.
You started the non-profit program, "Athletes Saving Athletes." Tell us about the life-changing event that inspired you to start the program.
The event that changed my life was an injury that occurred in the last two minutes of the last lacrosse game of my high school career on May 23, 2009. I was running for a ground ball when an opposing player and I collided. After I went down, teammates, coaches and my athletic trainer ran out to me. As a 3-sport athlete in high school, I hated injury delays in games, so I wanted to get up. I was convinced that I was OK, but if my athletic trainer hadn't have make me stay down, I would have died or been a quadriplegic. I had broken my neck in 3 places on the first vertebrae. My life was saved because my athletic trainer was educated and certified and knew what to do in the situation. Our first goal after starting Advocates for Injured Athletes was to put athletic trainers on every field in California, but this proved a large, expensive mountain to climb. So, we decided to focus on something we could do with the limited funds and resources we had. This is how we started the Athletes Saving Athletes program.
I understand that you are working with local high schools to provide training to athletes. How important is it for athletes to be knowledgeable about common injuries—even if they have access to a certified trainer?
Athletes Saving Athletes™ (ASA) is a unique peer-to-peer education program designed to empower student athletes with skills to help them recognize signs and symptoms of life-threatening injuries and conditions. The goal of ASA is to reduce the risk and incidence of injuries and fatalities of high school athletes using the power of education and kids talking to kids.
Certified Athletic Trainers deliver the ASA curriculum to student-athlete leaders, teaching them how to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion, head and neck injuries, heat illness, sudden cardiac arrest, diabetes, and asthma. In addition, the ASA program curriculum teaches students the value of having a well-practiced emergency action plan. Students learn what may be needed as a first responder, and that every minute counts in an emergency.
Student athletes who complete this program:
Are trained in recognizing signs and symptoms of life-threatening injuries and medical conditions.
Become certified by the American Red Cross in CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator).
Become "ASA Ambassadors" who have made the commitment to share their new knowledge and skills with current and future teammates. It is very important that athletes know this information because they are the first responders, especially if there is not an athletic trainer present.
"The ASA program curriculum teaches students the value of having a well-practiced emergency action plan. Students learn what may be needed as a first responder, and that every minute counts in an emergency."
You spent some time in Sacramento for your Concussion bill. Can you tell us a little bit about that process?
I testified twice in Sacramento to support two state bills. An assembly member introduced them, and I was asked to speak. Both bills support concussion education and safety. Governor Jerry Brown signed Bill AB 25 on October 5, 2011. The bill contains three core components:
- a youth athlete suspected of suffering a concussion in school sports cannot return to play that same day;
- once removed from play, an after-school youth athlete cannot return to play until s/he has been evaluated and cleared to play by a licensed medical professional; and
- a parent must complete an education form prior to a child participating in a youth sports activity.
How many people have received training through "Athletes Saving Athletes?" What are your goals for the future of the organization?
We have been to three high schools so far, and have ASA-certified 145 people. We have seven more high schools in the "Pilot San Diego Program." Our future goals are to save lives! We hope to expand our program to every high school and middle school in the US.
- Anne Malinoski ‘11