By: Wynne Love |Photos By: Zeena Gregg Photography

When Tommy Mallon fell to the ground after colliding with a fellow lacrosse player during his final high school game, he intended to get up and walk it off. It was only because trained professionals were on hand that he stayed put and narrowly avoided paralysis or death from his fractured vertebra. Tommy and his family want other athletes to have that same protection.

Many 92130 residents are familiar with the result of their efforts: Advocates for Injured Athletes. Tommy Mallon, now a student at USD, and his mother, Beth, founded AIA in 2010. “I had to do something while Tommy was recovering and the fear of the ‘what if’ haunted me constantly,” said Beth. Seeing how easily they had come so close to real tragedy, Beth was determined to spare others that fate.

She and Tommy, with the support of the American Red Cross and many others, have been fighting for the safety of student athletes in Sacramento and in Washington ever since. But they know their goal of having a certified athletic trainer in every school will take time, so their newest program brings life-saving information directly to the athletes.

This winter, they launched “Athletes Saving Athletes,” a pilot program that educates representatives from each of a school’s athletic teams. The inaugural program was held at Tommy’s alma mater, Santa Fe Christian Academy, on Jan. 20. There, professionals trained 48 “ambassadors” in CPR/AED certification, and in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions, head and neck injuries, heat stroke, diabetes, asthma attacks, and cardiac arrest. Given the long-term damage concussions can cause, training in how to respond properly can help students mitigate those effects.

These students are now committed to sharing that information with their fellow athletes, so that there are trained caretakers available at every athletic event. “Teaching athletes basic info gives them tools that may save a life,” said Beth.

The Mallons hope their program will become a national model for how students can keep their fellow athletes safe on the field. ASA visits Torrey Pines High School on Mar. 8.