Highly preventable time-loss sports injuries could be prevented with better school athletic policies in place, according to presenters in a legislative study Tuesday.

University of Tulsa Clinical Assistant Professor of Athletic Training Ron Walker estimated that there might be as many as 25,000 time-loss injuries in Oklahoma annually. A time-loss injury is defined as an injury that keeps an athlete from being able to practice. He also said 62 percent of injuries take place during practice and that competitive cheerleading is among those sports with a high number of time-loss injuries.

State Rep. Dan Kirby, chair of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Insurance Committee that held the study, said rural schools often lack athletic trainers.

“What I took away from the study was that it is in rural Oklahoma where we have the greatest challenge,” said Kirby, R-Tulsa. “We talked about the need for and use of athletic trainers in high schools and many of the larger school districts have athletic trainers. What we need is solutions for smaller school districts in the form of shared athletic trainers or at least policies in place to help guide the athletic programs in addressing sports injuries.”

Kirby said he was surprised by the large gap in the percentage of schools with athletic trainers nationally versus in Oklahoma.

“I was surprised by the number of athletic trainers that were employed in schools at a national level versus Oklahoma,” Kirby said. “I think that it was about a 65 percent coverage at a national level while here in Oklahoma we are at 20 percent. I think that is a significant number that will help make the case for changes in the state.”

Don Newman, the head athletic trainer at Union High School in Tulsa, said education is the best prevention tool for sports injuries.

“Education is the best medicine,” Newman said. “You don’t have to be an athletic trainer to recognize some of the potential hazards that could lead to a sports injury or the signs when one has occurred. There are a number of resources that are free and accessible and school athletic programs can easily make use of them to help keep their student athletes safe.”