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Editorial: Minnesota right to license trainers

Bills passed during the Minnesota legislative session and signed into law by the governor typically take effect Aug. 1. This year four laws had a July 1 date. Three you could consider tweaks to existing laws, but one is of particular note for parents of young athletes: Trainers now need a license.

The law shifts athletic trainers from a registration system to a licensure system. Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, and Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, convinced fellow lawmakers that this will better protect the public. Indeed, the change is a good one because potential trainers are now required to pass a background check to receive a license.

The timing of the law was essential, since an Aug. 1 implementation date would have placed undue burden on those fall sports programs that begin practicing in a few weeks.

While public schools already require background checks of those working with students in any capacity, this law reinforces the importance of such checks, broadens the practice and should raise the quality of athletic trainers through the licensure process.

Of course, the law applies to all athletic trainers — those working at private educational institutions, gyms, YMCAs, clubs, post-secondary institutions, etc. No successful background check, no license. No license, no contact with children, young adults, senior citizens and anyone in between seeking an athletic trainer for guidance.

The Minnesota law isn't fail proof. No law ever is. In this case, the wording allows current trainers to continue. Their registration will be converted to licensure at the time of their next renewal. It will take time to close that gap.

Still, the Minnesota law is prudent and reassuring. Consider the scandal that rocked U.S. Gymnastics: Lawrence Nassar, the team doctor, sexually abused scores of young female gymnasts over two decades. And although some victims kept silent, a few spoke up to their coaches and athletic trainers who were complicit, disregarded the reports or did nothing out of fear they would lose their jobs.

Minnesota licensure, which brings with it responsibilities, should help to prevent such abuse from happening here at any level to any athlete.

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