Feb 8, 2016
Who Should Check Wrestlers’ Skin?

The New Jersey high school wrestling community is battling over who should be responsible for checking athletes’ skin for contagious diseases like ringworm, herpes, and impetigo. While coaches have previously screened athletes, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) shifted the duty first to athletic trainers and more recently to referees. According to an article at the dailyrecord.com, both groups are resisting the responsibility.

When athletic trainers were on the hook, many complained they didn’t have the expertise or the time to bear the responsibility. East Brunswick High School Athletic Trainer Phil Hossler complained that you couldn’t just assign an important diagnostic task without proper training.

“It was like, ‘OK athletic trainers, you’re the experts.’ Based on what?” Hossler said. “That’s like saying you want me to take your tonsils out because on Monday you said I was a tonsils expert.”

“There are 500 athletes playing sports in the winter,” added Stacy White, Athletic Trainer at Middletown South High School. “You want us to sit in on a wrestling weigh-in session? There are times when we’ve had a quad (meet) in one gym and a basketball tripleheader in another gym. What happens, God forbid, if there’s an emergency and there’s no trainer there?”

Athletic trainers also pointed out that females in the role might make young male students uncomfortable. Another concern is that athletic trainers are not as neutral as officials, with allegiances to their own schools–when disqualifying a visiting athlete, complications could arise. With these protests and a new recommendation from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the NJSIAA re-assigned the task to referees in December.

The referees, however, have their own objections. Stu Kohn, a longtime official for the Greater Middlesex Conference, said the issue has to do with time.

“Where referees are getting frustrated and upset is when we’re asked to come in two hours early. If you have a match that starts at 7, they’re getting weighed in at 5. That’s where the referee feels taken advantage of. It’s not even the $50 or $60 (schools) are willing to pay. It’s time. There’s got to be a better way there. Has somebody come up with it? No. Do I think they will? Yeah.

“There’s an agreement that it does need to be done,” Kohn continued. “It’s imperative that we cut down on passing communicable skin diseases. It’s progressively gotten worse as time has gone on.”

Suggestions for next year might have athletic trainers checking wrestlers the night before a match. Hossler suggested a visual aid that might be used to help identify the diseases.

“What they should have done is put together a little booklet of laminated cards so you could hold it up against a kid’s arm and go, ‘OK, this is it,’” he said. “If you want people to be a dermatologist, you’d better give them some schooling.”

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