The UNCP Athletic Training Room entrance in the English E. Jones Health & Physical Education Center. UNCP’s athletic training program is one of the best in Divison II, however Locklear questions whether Division II schools are lacking in their ability to care for injured athletes off the field as well as on. PN Photo/ Andrew Thrift
By Hunter Locklear
The biggest “cash cow” and priority for the NCAA has always been Division 1 athletes and universities. A concern of Division 2 athletes maybe if they get the same treatment as Division 1 athletes, and if they are protected and assured the same way. Since the ancient Olympics, sports competitors have been plagued by injuries.
College athletes, especially ones who rely on sports scholarships, invest money and sacrifice time and energy to compete for schools. That poses the question, are athletic programs in D2 schools doing enough to protect players short and long term with dealing with injuries?
UNCP’s Student Athlete Injuries
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is a Division 2 school, where the NCAA labels it as “an intermediate-level division of competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.”
The most common difference between D1 and D2 schools is that D2 schools are often smaller and offer fewer sports and support a smaller athletic department.
Catastrophic career-ending injuries aren’t common at UNCP but can still happen. UNCP’s Head Athletic trainer Joseph Tamburo deals with student athletes from a variety of sports daily and sees the amount of physical damage they go through every day.
“With over 450 student-athletes pushing themselves physically on a daily basis, our athletic trainers are the primary resource for injuries. We do not see a large number of serious injuries or surgeries and I think that is because our coaches, strength staff, and athletic training staff do a very good job of prevention and try not to place our athletes in situations that may result in injury,” Tamburo said.
Division 2 schools like UNCP can only offer athletic scholarships for 1-year at a time, and they can be renewed each academic year.
Christina Chow the Assistant Athletics Director for Compliance for UNCP, has worked under Division 1 regulations before, and now she is under UNCP’s Division 2.
Chow noted that sports scholarships for D2 players can just simply not be renewed by NCAA bylaws if a player has dealt with an aggravated injury or an injury that won’t allow them to compete further.
“Institutions are required to send a notification to each student-athlete who received athletics aid the previous academic year and who has eligibility remaining in the sport they received athletics aid for by the July 1 deadline,” said Chow.
Tamburo also noted that even though the NCAA largely manages the scholarship issue, he has not seen it become a frequent occurrence with athletes losing their scholarships if they are injured, but more so of violating rules or team participation issues.
“An athletics injury would not allow a school to change a student’s scholarship. There have been times where a previously injured student did not have their aid renewed, but that would be related to some other issue regarding their participation or violation of team rules,” said Tamburo.
Short- and Long-Term Safety for Athletes
UNCP has made it a goal to protect student athletes short and long term according to Tamburo.
UNCP is partnered with Scotland Health System where players have access to an on-campus orthopedic surgeon meeting with a physician that comes in once a week.
Tamburo talked about the importance of keeping students safe and what UNCP does to protect athletes for their time at UNCP and beyond.
“UNCP has instituted mandatory sickle cell testing for all athletes and instituted a mental health screening for incoming athletes. Our athletes have instant access to healthcare through their athletic trainers and UNCP has worked very diligently to assure there is a robust team of doctors and specialists available to our athletes,” Tamburo said.
Chow said UNCP has one of the best training facilities, and no matter if a student has a scholarship or not, all students are still treated the same.
“UNC Pembroke has one of the best Athletic training facilities across NCAA Division 2 schools. Our athletes have access to healthcare through their athletic trainers… All student-athletes, whether scholarship or non-scholarship, are treated equally from a medical perspective,” said Chow.
Student Athletes having enough time for Academics
Being a student athlete doesn’t guarantee a free walk-through academic courses.
Student athletes free time is often taken up by home and road games, team lifts and practices.
The NCAA bylaws in section 126.96.36.199 state that “When a team is in their ‘Non-championship Season’ a student-athlete’s participation in CARA (Countable athletically related activities) shall be limited to four hours per day and 15 hours per week.”
In section 188.8.131.52 of the NCAA Division 2 bylaws it states that if a team is in their championship season, participation limits to four hours a day, and 20 hours a week with one day off.
Anna Grossheim, was a standout freshman in this past soccer season, talked about how she feels she has enough time to be a normal student.
“I feel like I have enough time to be a normal student. In addition to school and soccer, I also work about 36 hours a week at Robeson County EMS and even with a job tacked on to athletics and academics, I still make time for myself,” said freshman soccer standout Anna Grossheim.
Jaylen Mack, who is a former UNCP baseball player, talked about how he manages his free time.
“Although we spend a lot of time practicing, team lifts, traveling, and playing, I do think there is a lot of down time for us to get our work done. You just have to manage your free time correctly.”
Student Athletes Using their Voices for Reform
While the NCAA has had a lot of heat over the past few years when it comes to paying players in which they profit so much from, especially in D1 programs.
“I play the sport because I love it. I’m really not concerned with making money through it. Soccer along with academic scholarships pays my way through school though so I am very thankful for that,” said Grossheim.
Mack spoke about the idea of pulling sports scholarships, and seeing it being the right thing to do under certain circumstances.
“I do not think it’s fair to pull a student athletes scholarship because he or she is dealing with an injury. If he or she comes back from their injury and can’t perform at their scholarship level then I feel it is fair to pull it,” said Mack.
Grossheim said she would like to see students have the option to pick their own doctor for injuries and it still be covered by the school.
“I think our athletic training staff does well to get us where we need to be to fix any injury that may occur. The only thing that kind of sucks about it is that we have to use the doctors associated with the school, we can’t use our own choice of doctor,” said Grossheim.
“I wish athletes could choose the doctor they saw for injury and it still be covered by the school. Some people prefer to go to different places for treatments and their desires should be respected,” said Grossheim.
UNCP makes an effort to protect players from long term from injuries, and players have options to take care of their body through the school for free.
In a D2 setting, sports scholarships cannot be pulled during a season, but the NCAA does have an option to not renew them and the student will know ahead of time.
With playing sports, there is always a risk of injury, and in case it happens, UNCP and the NCAA tries to make it a goal to keep The athlete as safe and healthy as possible.