As the Chugiak High School Mustangs prepare for another game, they have the equipment they need -- including something new.

Players wear special stickers on their helmets, indicating that Chugiak has teamed up with the Alaska Athletic Trainers Association. The partnership, which also includes seven other high schools across the state, aims to raise awareness of safety of all prep sports in the 49th state. 

Lynne Young is Chugiak's athletic trainer. She's also the association's president. Young says her job is about more than taping up injuries.

"In addition to prevention, we do, actually right there, diagnosis and evaluation for acute injuries. We continue determine whether it's safe for them to continue, or whether they need further medical attention, and we also help with the rehab also," said Young.

Injuries are common during a game, but nearly two-thirds of sports-related injuries take place during practice. Statistics from the National Athletic Trainers Association also show that 54 percent of athletes played while hurt, while 25 percent of athletes, coaches, and parents did not do anything to prevent injuries.

Young says that's why certified athletic trainers are important.

"Obviously concussions are a big issue," Young said during a break from the game. "Obviously having well-trained athletic trainers that can evaluate, that can make those pretty serious decisions on, 'Is this kid ready to play?' and following them through that protocol."

Chugiak and most of Alaska's larger and mid-sized schools have athletic trainers. Young said the cost, which can run into the thousands of dollars. prevents many, if not all of the smallest programs from having them.

But, Young said, companies often donate athletic trainers, as is the case with her, and the rest of the Anchorage schools. Parents think it's a good investment. 

"Football is a rough sport, lots of contact, lots of things can happen," said parent Diana Hays.

"A lot of times, high-school kids will get hurt, and they will want to keep playing, because they don't want to let their team down," said parent Kim Girard. "And the trainer's the one who kind of puts the stops, and says, 'No, I think it's time for you to take a break,' and I think that's really a healthy thing."

For her part, Young believes helps prove her worth every week to the Mustangs.

"You always hear this cliche, 'You wouldn't bring your kids to a pool without a lifeguard,'" Young said. "Certainly you shouldn't be bringing your kids to a football field without an athletic trainer."

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