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story.lead_photo.caption Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, is shown speaking in the Senate chamber. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

A bill allowing athletic trainers to treat patients who are not involved in organized athletic activities cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 178, sponsored by Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would allow licensed trainers to provide treatment and help with rehabilitation to anyone "injured as a result of vigorous participation in exercises, sports, games, recreation, wellness, fitness, employment activities or military service."

Currently the state's more than 300 athletic trainers are limited to caring for people participating in organized athletic or team activities.

"The fact that an athlete can sustain an injury on a field is no different than a law enforcement agent, than a tactical athlete in the military or an industrial line worker that incorporates the same injury," said Jeremy Braziel, chairman of the Arkansas Athletic Trainer's Association's governmental affairs committee.

The bill also would allow athletic trainers to practice in a hospital or clinic under a physician's supervision. Arkansas Code 17-93-411 now requires them to work under a physical therapist's supervision in such settings.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Physical therapists argued that the bill would allow athletic trainers to handle cases for which they aren't qualified.

Athletic trainers must complete a bachelor's or master's degree in athletic training and pass a test created by a national board.

Physical therapists must have a doctoral degree in physical therapy, which typically takes three years and is completed after the student earns a bachelor's degree, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.

Physical therapists must also pass tests approved by the Arkansas State Board of Physical Therapy.

Steve Forbush, an associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Central Arkansas, said he recently had a total knee replacement, and "I don't think the athletic trainer is the person I would go to" for rehabilitation assistance.

The Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor advanced SB178 in a divided voice vote. It next goes to the full Senate.

A Section on 03/14/2019

Print Headline: Panel backs bill on role of trainers

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