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5 more Jacksonville high schools to hire full-time athletic trainers

Project 17 aims to have certified trainers at all 17 Duval high schools by 2020

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Five more Jacksonville high schools will be hiring full-time athletic trainers as part of Project 17.

The public initiative is dedicated to place full-time certified athletic trainers at all 17 high schools in Duval County by 2020. Duval County Public Schools partnered with local hospitals, colleges and the NFL to help fund the program. 

Coaches at Terry Parker High School told News4Jax on Thursday that the minimum training most high school coaches get is first aid and CPR, which is why Project 17 is so important. 

Ashley Alvarez, a full-time licensed athletic trainer at Terry Parker, said athletic trainers respond to serious injuries immediately during practices or games while paramedics are en route. But another key part of her job is injury prevention. 

"Come 2 o'clock, I'm rehabbing kids in here. I'm taping them before practice," Alvarez said. "We need to make sure they're wearing the right shoes, utilizing the right equipment, that their field is safe to play on."

G'shan Aldridge, a 10th-grade basketball player, had to get surgery after a knee injury. He said having Alvarex on campus was convenient and helped him get back on the court quickly. 

"It's more comfortable coming here. You have someone that knows what they're doing and has a lot of experience," Aldridge said. "Every time after a game, Ms. Ashley will help me by icing my leg. One time, I hurt my ankle during a game. I thought I was done and she cheered me up."

In the first year of the program, athletic trainers served more than 2,400 athletics at the seven schools that currently have full-time trainers. They assessed and managed more than 70 sports-related concussions, 61 athletes with heat exhaustion and 42 reports of dangerous cardiac conditions.