What does a life cost?

Published 12:58 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

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Tragedy shines spotlight on need for full time sports trainers


Last Tuesday afternoon, seventh grader Kaden Gunter and the rest of his Greeneville Middle School team was just wrapping up another day of practice for their upcoming middle school game.

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Gunter probably had some things to share with his family when he got home about the day’s practice as according to a recent story on WJHL, football was Gunter’s thing. But before even being able to change out of his workout gear, something happened that no one ever imagined happening on the field that afternoon.

A medical emergency occurred with Gunter and his coaches had to react to try and save his life as his teammates more than likely looked on in horrific fear for their teammate.

The coaches did their part in keeping him alive until he could be taken to a local hospital and then transported to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital the following day in critical but stable condition.

Things took a turn for the worse and Gunter lost his battle to survive.

Some may have read the story and thought how sad the story was, but have you ever took time to think that Gunter could have been your son, grandson, brother, nephew, or best friend and the story enters a completely different scenario altogether.

Although the coaches did all they could, would the situation have been different if there had been trained athletic trainers standing by in the event of such an occurrence?

In talking with Dr. Justin Smith of Physical Therapy Services in Elizabethton at the Sullivan East and Elizabethton football game, athletic trainers were once present at each practice as well as games to take care of athletes in the event of an emergency, but school and government budgets seemed to push out the importance of the need for said trainers.

Smith made a statement during our conversation that I have not been able to shake and that was simply this, “What does a life cost?”  In other words, is it better to not worry about budgeting these trainers back in at each school until one of our own county athletes meets the same fate as this young Greeneville player?

I believe beyond a doubt that these coaches did all they knew to do, but the fact is a coach is just a supplemented teacher who is paid to coach their respective sport and are not paramedics, doctors, or have the medical training that an athletic trainer receives in their profession.

Why should we as parents and grandparents have to expect that the men and women who coach our children know how to save their lives… that is not their field. They are simply paid to teach the X’s and O’s of sports.

Should we not hold our local government bodies and school boards accountable to fund athletic trainers to be present at each school in the case of a medical emergency during practices as well as games?

It makes these two bodies uneasy to think about having to find funding to be able to add these positions with all the other challenges faced today in funding, but those types of arguments would quickly fade if an athlete that something tragically happened to like it did to Gunter was their child or grandchild.

Then the argument truly changes to what a life costs.

Having a grandson who wrestles, this event has really challenged me to be more vocal about this topic. I can only hope enough readers and members of our local government and school systems take time to ask themselves the same question and then respond accordingly.

What is the value of your child or grandchild’s life? Think about it!