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ST. LOUIS - The use of athletic trainers in high schools is on the rise of both sides of the Bi-State.

The health experts have been praised lately following story of a 15-year-old Poplar Bluff boy who collapsed at a football practice Monday.

Witnesses on scene credited an athletic trainer with saving his life.

St. Louis University has worked to bring more athletic trainers to St. Louis high schools and says its an idea that has increased in popularity.

The university has brought an athletic trainer to work at both St. Mary's and Bishop DuBourg high schools.

"We started our program in 2007 and one of the things we really want to advocate for was proper athletic health care and we saw a void in the city," said Dr. Tony Breitbach, director of SLU's Athletic Training Education Program.

Bridgett Quirk is the athletic trainer who works at St. Mary's and Bishop DuBourg. She focuses on ankle sprains, shoulder injuries and concussions.

More Information: National Athletic Trainers' Association

"It's more than just the trainer that people are used to in terms of hitting the weights and everything," she said. "But, that's definitely a part of it as well."

At St. Mary's, officials have had nothing but good things to say about Quirk.

"It's really nice to have someone who's well trained, who can do college evaluations for you," said St. Mary's Football coach Alex DeMatteis.

St. Mary's Athletic Director Tony Dattoli said it would be great if every school had an athletic trainer.

"I think in the athletic realm itself, everyone needs to be better equipped," he said.

More Information: NFL - "NFL Foundation to fund high school trainers in underserved areas"

According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association -- 55 percent of secondary schools athletes currently have access to a full-time athletic trainer. While 39 percent of secondary schools have access to a full-time athletic trainer.

Early next year, NATA plans to release a formal benchmark study concerning the relationship of high schools and athletic trainers.

However, the number of athletic trainers in the US could soon drastically go on the rise.

This summer, the NFL announced a program to fund high school trainers in underserved areas.

Newschannel 5 called about two dozen schools in the St. Louis area to see who had athletic trainers and automated external defibrillators.

Clayton, Mehlville, St. Francis Borgia, Ladue and Collinsville high schools all have them. All of the Parkway high schools have them too.

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