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Lunch Break, 12/16: Vikings Featured on MMQB

View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the 14th game of 2014 as the Vikings took on the Lions at Ford Field.

The Vikings leadership of a grant system that increased oversight by certified athletic trainers at freshman, junior varsity and varsity football games drew praise from Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King in his "Ten Things I Think I Think" column for Week 15.

King writes:

I think a worthy program got overlooked in the hubbub of the season and the controversies that have dogged the league this year. Fifteen NFL teams partnered with the league to provide certified athletic trainers to high school football teams in their immediate areas. Owners would put up $25,000, and the league would provide a matching $25,000, and the team's trainers would be in charge of seeding the program in the local area and making sure underserved areas were covered. Nationally, it is estimated that at least 40 percent of high school varsity, JV and freshman football games are played without a certified athletic trainer on site.* *

Last year, The MMQB wrote about the problem in our series on head trauma in football.* It was alarming to see full athletic conferences in sparsely populated areas of the Midwest with one athletic trainer, total, for all of their teams. One of the places the grant system worked well this season was in Minnesota, where Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and athletic trainers from the TRIA Orthopedic Center made sure that every frosh, JV and varsity high school game in the 13 public high schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul were covered — and that injured players would get treatment between games. In all, 600 football players were covered by certified athletic trainers during all games, and for some practices as well. *

*"It is crucial to have a certified athletic trainer on site," Sugarman said. "It provides parents the peace of mind knowing their kids are being taken care of by certified professionals. It's so important for the future of the game." *

In addition to the Vikings, these teams put in seed money: Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, the New York Giants and Philadelphia. In all, 644 schools have been assisted by the certified athletic trainers. It's a great effort. If you want your child to play high school football, you should be sure a certified athletic trainer is on hand for every game—and if not, you should press to make sure the school gets one on hand.

The program, implemented earlier this year, has been a huge success and should lead to a healthier game and athletes thanks to professionals such as Sugarman and the support of the NFL.

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