The Project 17 Program

Ensuring the health and safety of youth athletes is a top priority. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, presence of certified athletic trainers (ATs) can decrease injury rates and help identify injuries that do occur in school or other youth sports programs. In 2014, the NFL Foundation, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers’ Society (PFATS) began a partnership to increase the presence of ATs in high schools nationwide. The NFL Foundation, NFL clubs and NATA have committed more than $1 million to place ATs in under-served high schools in NFL markets. In 2015, 16 NFL clubs participated in the grant program, working with local high schools to support schools and community youth sports programs. Specifically, the Jacksonville Jaguars awarded a grant to the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program which will serve the needs within the Duval County Public Schools through a special collaborative program called Project 17.

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Project 17: Certified Athletic Trainer Program

Program Kickoff


Collaboration between Jacksonville Jaguars, National Football League, Jacksonville University and the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program to place certified athletic trainers in 17 Duval County high schools by 2020 Program backed by grants from Jaguars, NFL and JU.

Jacksonville, FL, July 30, 2015 – The Jacksonville Jaguars, the National Football League (NFL), Jacksonville University (JU) and the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program (JSMP) have come together to provide the funding and training needed to place full-time certified athletic trainers in 17 Duval County public high schools by 2020. The effort will create a comprehensive athletic training program in the local public school system to support youth sports injury prevention and care.

Staff Group Photo

“This is a collaborative project of multiple community agencies working together for the common goal of increasing safety in our public school athletic programs,” said Robert Sefcik, ATC, LAT, executive director of the JSMP. “The partnership was created to assist the schools in funding a comprehensive athletic training program that will begin as an internship model, with the intent to become a graduate assistantship program through Jacksonville University; that will culminate in the creation of 17 full-time positions within the Duval County Public Schools in the next five years.”

National statistics indicate the rate of sports-related injury among youth athletes can exceed 50 percent, and that certified athletic trainers specifically trained in preventing, recognizing and caring for these injuries are not always available to high school student-athletes. The Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation has commited to aid the effort to increase safety on our area youth athletic fields. In response, the NFL matched the commitment, and has donated $50,000 this year, with the possibility of increased funding as the partnership and programming grows.

“The health and safety of student athletes is paramount to the NFL, and as such the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation was able to secure a grant from the league for $50,000 to help begin this important initiative to ensure that the Duval County Public Schools have full-time certified athletic trainers by 2020 to serve the needs of all sports at the schools,” said Peter Racine, president of the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation.

Jacksonville University joined the program as an integral component of higher education, and will incorporate educational initiatives into a proposed Masters of Kinesiological Sciences (MS KIN) program to start in the fall of 2016. JU is developing the academic curriculum for the certified athletic trainers, and has created a fellowship pathway program that will allow them access to the proposed MS KIN graduate degree with emphasis in movement sciences. The 2015 athletic trainer cohort will participate in an internship model managed through the JSMP in cooperation with JU.

“We continue to position our mission to provide essential academic roles in the Jacksonville community,” said Christine Sapienza, PhD, dean of the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Science at Jacksonville University. “Athletic trainers need to be an essential part of our schools’ sports programs, and our Kinesiology program will continue the certified athletic trainers’ education in injury prevention and rehabilitation, sport performance and movement science, shifting them into a significant area of expertise. We are proud to be a part of this powerful team of partners that are working to advocate for the safety of our children.”

Project 17 Group Photo

Sefcik confirmed the JSMP will function as the program’s center, organizing the finances as well as its medical direction with the involvement of five area sports medicine-trained physicians. JSMP also will develop the policies, procedures and best practices followed by the school athletic trainers and dedicated team physicians.

Certified athletic trainers are essential health care professionals who provide a safe playing environment, evaluate injuries, implement rehabilitation programs for the return to activity following injury, and provide expertise in outlining sports programs that focus on safe participation. Currently, each Duval County high school has the part-time assistance of a community-based athletic trainer employed by one of our local physician practices or outpatient physical therapy clinics. These athletic trainers provide on-call services to our schools, and some offer support for football programs only, leaving other sports without medical supervison. Because student-athletes in all sports are at risk of injury, this partnership was created to ensure that more sports programs are overseen by these licensed health care professionals.

“Athletics play an important role in shaping the lives of so many of our high school students,” said Kevin Kaplan, MD, head team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Atlantic Coast High School Stingrays.“With athletes getting bigger, faster and stronger, the risk of injury also has increased. It’s crucial to have the appropriate health care in place for preventing and caring for injuries should they occur. I’m proud to be able to support the JSMP, along with the Jaguars, JU and the NFL, in providing certified athletic trainers to our Duval County public school system.”

The total funding needed for this five-year program is approximately $3 million. The Duval County Public Schools will fund the majority with the remaining funds being generated through private partnerships that will support the program its first two years until the district takes over a majority of the commitment.

The Certified Athletic Trainer

Athletic Trainers (ATs) are licensed health care professionals who collaborate with physicians. The services provided by ATs comprise prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. ATs work under the direction of physicians, as prescribed by state licensure statutes.

Profiles of an Athletic Trainer as provided by the National Athletic Trainers Assn. (NATA)

What happens when injury occurs?

After an injury student-athletes should notify their school-based certified athletic trainer to inform them of the injury.